Mend and Make Do founder Ursula Tunks gets a kiss from daughter Adrienne Lyons after Urlsula was announced as the Clarnce Woman of the year.
Mend and Make Do founder Ursula Tunks gets a kiss from daughter Adrienne Lyons after Urlsula was announced as the Clarnce Woman of the year. Adam Hourigan

GOOD DEEDS: Ursula our 2020 Woman of the Year

LEARNING she was to be the 2020 Clarence Valley Electorate Woman of the Year was painful for South Grafton volunteer Ursula Tunks.

"It hurt"," was Ms Tunks' reaction yesterday when asked about her award at a morning tea outside the Mend and Make Do Op Shop in South Grafton.

For the former Australian Federal Police officer and PTSD survivor recognition can be a tricky thing.

"It's the tall poppy thing in Australia," she said. "You put your head up and people want to knock it off.

"That's why I prefer to keep my head down and bum up working.

"But it's also good recognition for all the volunteers and what they do here."

Head down and bum up is exactly how Ms Tunks has been for the past six years developing the South Grafton volunteer and self-help community hub Mend and Make Do.

First intended as an antidote to the rampant consumerism of the modern world, encouraging people to recycle and repair their possessions, it has turned into something even more valuable.

The volunteers collect and repair all sorts of goods and convert them into packs to distribute to needy people in the region.

The number of people needing help jumped sharply this summer because of the fires that ravaged the country since August.

The Mend and Make Do crew swung into action producing more than 10,000 care kits for everyone involved from all agencies including fire crews and fire victims.

Through Ms Tunks' contacts in a group of former AFP officers, these kits have found their way to southern NSW and Victoria to help bushfire survivors.

Ms Tunks said there four generations of her family, including her daughter Adrienne Lyons, great Aunty Val Leatham and Aunty Jill Holmes and her husband Peter were involved in Mend and Make Do.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, who runs the Clarence quest, visited Ms Tunks yesterday and presented her with a bunch of local flowers, an official certificate and the heartfelt thanks of a grateful community.

"Ms Tunks has been serving the local community for many years, including starting her 'Mend and Make Do' crew which have made more than 10,000 emergency care kits which are distributed by welfare organisations across the region to people in crisis," Mr Gulaptis said.

"There was stiff competition as there is every year for the title, but what made the difference was the extraordinary extra effort Ursula and her team went to in order to help communities during the recent bushfires.

"The Mend and Make Do crew also produced more than two hundred crew kits for local firefighters containing everything from lip balm to muesli bars and toilet paper.

"What started out as a Facebook group in 2014 sharing ideas around recycling grew into an Op Shop that opened in South Grafton in 2016 and has gone leaps and bounds ever since.

"The crew also made home starter kits for disadvantaged families which include a full range of kitchen and linen supplies, funded by sales from the Op Shop.

""Ursula aims to give people a feeling of belonging and purpose and wants to make a difference to the lives of those who are doing it tough.

"With International Women's Day approaching on March 8, I salute Ursula, her crew and indeed all the women volunteers who make the Clarence and Richmond Valleys happier and safer places to live."



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