Club Sapphire wins inaugural Bowls Australia award for its community role during summer bushfires

Club Sapphire CEO Damien Foley and chairman Peter Moore with their Bowls Australia Customer Service Award
Club Sapphire CEO Damien Foley and chairman Peter Moore with their Bowls Australia Customer Service Award

Club Sapphire Merimbula says it is really proud to have received national accolades for its role as a bushfire evacuation centre in early 2020.

However, CEO Damien Foley said the award is a recognition of much more than just his club.

On Thursday night, November 19, Bowls Australia announced Cub Sapphire as the inaugural recipient of its Community Service award as part of the national organisation's annual awards night.

The event was held online with recipients accepting awards via Zoom videos from Bowls Australia CEO Neil Dalrymple.

Mr Foley acknowledged a whole-of-community effort in his acceptance of the award, saying Club Sapphire "could not have done it alone".

Eerie skies over Club Sapphire in early January 2020.

Eerie skies over Club Sapphire in early January 2020.

Speaking to ACM on Friday morning, he said it was due to the efforts of so many individuals and agencies that they were able to assist the community in its time of need.

The club was closed for nine days at the peak of the bushfires emergency, with up to 1500 people taking shelter there at any one time. Mr Foley said there were nights where around 1200 people were sleeping in the club - a far cry from the current situation where the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a limit of 300 people at any one time being imposed.

"The community just rallied around to help during that horrendous time and the support we had was phenomenal," Mr Foley said.

"Hospitality businesses turned up with mattresses from their rooms and restaurants who were forced to close brought meals around for everyone here.

"The efforts of so many entities and individuals is what we are thankful for.

"And the staff here were phenomenal - some didn't leave the joint.

"It's really a proud moment for the club to be recognised by the peak body, but I'm also proud of the club industry as a whole.

"Many clubs across the region came to the fore and put people before money, so we're seeing this as an award for the whole Bega Valley club industry," he said.

Setting up fans for evacuees sheltering at Club Sapphire during the bushfires.

Setting up fans for evacuees sheltering at Club Sapphire during the bushfires.

Watch the presentation ceremony below. Club Sapphire's Community Service Award begins around 7m40s

Meanwhile, other award winners on the Bowls Australia 2020 Awards Night Honour Roll are:

Bowls Volunteer of the Year: Gary Costigan (Thuringowa, QLD)

Coach of the Year: Gary Willis (Cabramatta, NSW)

Club of the Year: Dandenong Club (VIC) and South Perth Bowling Club (WA)

Bowler with a Disability of the Year: Jake Fehlberg (Burleigh Heads, QLD)

Under-18 Female Bowler of the Year: Kira Bourke (Tweed Heads, NSW)

Under-18 Male Bowler of the Year: Kane Nelson (Belmont Services, Queensland)

Male Bowler of the Year: Peter Taylor (Alstonville, NSW)

Female Bowler of the Year: Genevieve Delves (Raymond Terrace, NSW)

International Female Bowler of the Year: Kelsey Cottrell (St Johns Park, NSW)

International Male Bowler of the Year: Corey Wedlock (Warilla, NSW)

This story Club Sapphire wins inaugural Bowls Australia award for its community role during summer bushfires first appeared on Merimbula News Weekly.