In 2017 John Hand was celebrated as a long service local firefighter after his retirement from NSW Fire & Rescue, and he’s again the toast of the town after being named Berrigan Shire Citizen of the Year on Friday.
Mr Hand was honoured with the award in front of about 150 people at the official ceremony at the Barooga Community Hall on Australia Day.
The citation was for ‘‘lifelong contribution to the Finley community and dedicated service to NSW Fire & Rescue’’.
Among other nominees for Citizen of the Year were Tocumwal residents Bob Bowman, Mary Higgins and Bruce ‘Robbo’ Robertson, Barooga’s Lynette Woodhead and Finley’s Robyn O’Leary.
Mr Hand said knowing his ‘competition’, he felt it would have been a tough decision for the award judges.
‘‘The other nominees are all deserving; they’ve been great contributors of the community.
‘‘Robbo coached my two kids in swimming. He would come across just to coach them, so people like that have done a wonderful job.
‘‘It’s very important that we all volunteer to make our community better.
‘‘We owned a business and my whole family saw the need to give back in recognition of the support the community gave us.
‘‘Unless you contribute to the community, nothing will happen. It’s up to all of us to give back to the community and follow the examples set before us.’’
While he is best known as Finley’s long-serving fireman, it’s not the only way Mr Hand has chosen to support his community.
He is a board member of the Finley RS Club and a former executive member of the parent groups for Finley’s preschool, primary and high schools.
Mr Hand has also been on numerous organising and fundraising committees, including the Berriquin Nursing Home and Finley Recreation Reserve Lighting Project.
In the sporting field he volunteered his time as boundary umpire for the Finley Cats for 11 years. He also served on the Murray Football League tribunal for 18 years, including eight as chair.
He is a life member of two local organisations — Finley Apex and the Finley Amateur Swimming Club — and of the NSW Fire & Rescue Firefighters Championships Association.
His volunteer work continues today as a community transport driver for Home and Community Care.
Mr Hand’s community work slotted into an already busy career, including taking over the family business — Hand Furniture and Floor Coverings — with his brother in 1975. It was originally purchased by their parents in 1960. The brothers continued to operate the business until 2009.
His other career as a firefighter began with the Finley Fire Brigade 41 years ago, and for 30 of those years he was captain.
Mr Hand is not new to accolades, having previously being named 1986 Finley Rotary Citizen of the Year, and receiving the Australian Fire Service Medal in 1996.
His Citizen of the Year trophy is the second shire Australia Day award for the Hand household, with his son Michael named Young Citizen of the Year in 2002.