Local heroes recognised

Jill Pope. (Supplied)253975_01

Three northern suburbs residents have been named as Westfield Plenty Valley’s local heroes for 2021.

The local heroes program recognises and celebrates individuals whose work has made a positive impact on their local community or environment, and awards three $10,000 individual grants to their heroes’ affiliated organisations.

This year’s winners were Gianna Donato from Encompass Care Victoria, Jill Pope from Big Group Hug and Steve Watts from Parkinson’s Victoria.

Ms Donato delivers food and connection to vulnerable people through her work with Encompass Care Victoria.

Her team hand out food parcels and referrals to other organisations. They also make breakfast sandwiches for children at three schools in Bundoora and Mernda and run a weekly community café to reduce social isolation.

Ms Pope volunteers more than 40 hours a week with the Big Group Hug, providing donated prams, cots, clothing, toiletries and other material aid to children from vulnerable families. ]

Last year the charity supported over 3000 children, meeting nearly every request for help.

Mr Watts is a Fire Rescue Victoria commander and has spent the past four years raising awareness and funds for the 27,000 Victorians with Parkinson’s disease.

He was diagnosed with the disease in 2017 and has come up with innovative ways to help the non-profit provide peer support, health advice and research funding.

Westfield Plenty Valley centre manager Charlie Rimmer said: “The Westfield Local Heroes program continues to recognise and reward everyday people doing extraordinary things in our communities. We are incredibly proud to be able to recognise the important work they are doing, and it’s with great pleasure that we announce our 2021 Westfield Local Heroes grant recipients.

“It’s fantastic for our broader communities to see first-hand what a Westfield Local Heroes grant can help to achieve. We thank our Plenty Valley community for voting and supporting all of our nominees; it’s a privilege to continue to support those who have made a lasting impact on the future of our local community.”