THIS year has tested our spirit.
Farmers across our region were crippled by drought, bushfires ravaged communities in summer and a health crisis has brought the world to a standstill.
But it is in those times of challenge where good people shine. Where resilience rises to the top and the qualities that define the best of humanity - kindness, generosity, selflessness and love - bring us together.
It's National Volunteer Week. Throughout the hardship of the last year, those good humans who step up without question and extend a helping hand. They are the engine room of a community. This week, we say thank you.
In the current pandemic, while many of us have stayed home, volunteers in essential services have remained on the frontline.
Volunteers have been packing food deliveries, checking in on the elderly, supporting families and helping others. In an ordinary year, one third (31 per cent) of Australians volunteer their time, each contributing 128 hours of their time back into the community.
This year, our volunteers have gone above and beyond. With over 200,000 volunteers in emergency services risking themselves to save others, emergency management volunteers are more important than ever, working alongside other essential volunteers in affected communities.
CEO of Lifeline Mid North Coast Catherine Vaara said volunteers are the fabric of any community and Lifeline has been crucial in providing support and assistance to thousands of people across the region throughout these times of hardship.
"Our volunteers do a magnificent job," Ms Vaara said.
"We've had a very hard few months. And even before that we've had drought and we've had fires and we know that's impacted everybody, even our volunteers. And I say thank you."
CEO of Volunteering Australia, Adrienne Picone says this extraordinarily challenging year has shone a spotlight on the power of the unpaid workforce in Australia.
"With such need, we are working hard to promote safe and effective volunteer working conditions and encourage Volunteer Involving Organisations to do the same," Ms Picone said.
"It is more important than ever that we thank and recognise volunteers this National Volunteer Week."
Alongside the emergency volunteers, many volunteers have been stood down due to age, health concerns or volunteer programs being suspended. While face-to-face or event volunteering is put on hold there are still other ways that people can donate their time.
"Some volunteering organisations are currently seeking volunteers with roles such as community support, telephone volunteers, delivery drivers and digital mentors currently advertised on the GoVolunteer website," Ms Picone said.
"It's important for people to remember that once COVID-19 restrictions lift, most volunteering programs will resume as normal and will be actively re-engaging with their volunteers and possibly seeking new volunteers."
This National Volunteer Week, Volunteering Australia is calling on all Australians to 'wave your appreciation' for volunteers by sharing a photo of themselves on social media waving their hand of thanks using the hashtags #NVW2020 and #waveforvolunteers.