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2015 A.H. Beard's Community Hero Award

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Four wonderful women have been selected as finalists for the 2015 NSW Women of the year Awards in A.H. Beard's Community Hero category.

The Community Hero category showcases women who are local heroes or volunteers who have made an outstanding contribution to the NSW community.

Read about each of the finalists below.

Jo Abbott

Jo Abbott

Jo has dedicated her life to empowering people with disability through the medium of live performance.

Jo's love of dance and her experience raising a child with Autism led her to co-found the Special Olympics Dance Performance Group in Sydney in 2006. The group, which started with six dancers, has grown to over ten groups with hundreds of dancers. As Australia Day ambassadors, the dance group now performs at more than 40 charity and community events every year. Largely due to Jo's efforts, the group has raised more than $1.3 million since 2006, all of which was donated to the Special Olympics.

On top of her full time job in a world-wide customer organisation, Jo spends countless hours overseeing rehearsals, performances and hosting community interactions for the dance group. Not only does she create, fit, transport and store hundreds of costumes for the dance squad, she also helps to transport members to and from rehearsals and shows. Jo is committed to providing a safe place for people with disability to belong, be part of a team, and help them to develop new skills and confidence.

One of 10 children, Jo's deep-seated desire to serve others began at a young age. A mother of three children, Jo also donates significant amounts of time and expertise to Inala, an organisation that supports people with disability in the community. She is a member of the Functions Committee at Inala, where she helps organise fundraising events, including sourcing entertainment and prizes as well as organising invitees.

Since 2010, Jo has served as the Executive Director of the Network of Caring charity, which provides $350,000 each year to empower Australians with disability.

Her dedication to the community has not gone unnoticed, and she was presented with NSW Government Community Service Award during 2009.

Lana Borg (Winner)

Lana Borg

When asked to cook a Christmas Eve banquet for Penrith's homeless in November 2013, Lana and her husband Roger realised that there was a great need to help the less fortunate in their local community.

Mama Lana's Community Foundation was born, and has been serving hot home-cooked meals for homeless people in Penrith, four nights a week, ever since. Lana does most of the cooking herself, making more than 400 meals a week in her little kitchen.

Lana's love of cooking began at an early age. Her oldest memory is standing on a chair, stirring the big pot of porridge on a timber-fuelled stove for her three siblings. Making their breakfast and school lunches were the best way she could care for them.

Lana says that one of her life goals and an objective of her foundation is to let people know that there are others out there who truly care, and want to help them get back on their feet.

As a result, not only does the foundation assist those in need of food, Lana also takes crisis calls for families that can't afford to buy food, supplies bedding, blankets and clothing and recently furnished a room for a baby.

When the bushfires ravaged Winmalee in October 2013, Mama Lana pitched in by feeding the firefighters. With the help of friends, she cooked 350 meals a day plus barbecue breakfasts and dinners for the volunteers.

It was going through some hard times herself, including an abusive father, a failed first marriage and business, and Lupus diagnosis which inspired Lana to start Mama Lana's Authentic Italian Meals with her new husband Roger.

Her childhood love of cooking, which got her through many of her life challenges, has led to the success of Lana's business and most importantly outstanding contribution to her local community through the Foundation.

Sue Roden

Sue Roden

As a volunteer, Sue has been making a positive difference to the lives of people in the Blue Mountains for decades.

Having lived in the community for more than thirty years, Sue raised two sons and began helping out at her school. With her sons grown up she turned her attention to helping the Blue Mountains community.

In 1998, Sue joined the Australian Red Cross as an Emergency Services volunteer and progressed to Team Leader for the Lower Blue Mountains. Read more In 2007 she became the Emergency Services Liaison Officer for the Blue Mountains, managing two teams, and being on call as the main contact between the Red Cross volunteers and Government agencies.

Sue's volunteer training came to the fore during the October 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires where she was responsible for the coordination of Red Cross volunteers. They worked tirelessly in local evacuation centres to assist people affected by the fires. Sue became a hero to many of the fire victims, helping out in any way she could. She is still involved today in the community outreach, recovery and preparedness programs that follow all natural disasters.

In times of non-emergency, Sue coordinates the Blue Mountains Red Cross Trauma Teddy program, encouraging and supporting a team of knitters making bears for people in need of care and comfort. She instils her compassion and volunteer values in local school children by holding Trauma Teddies workshops.

Sue also coordinates the making and collection of knitted blankets to supply Blue Mountains Cancer Help, a local- based organisation established to provide support for local residents who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Genelle Warne

Genelle Warne

Genelle's greatest aspiration in life is to help others escape domestic violence.

Growing up in a home where there was domestic violence, and needing a change in life, Genelle joined the NSW Police Force in Blacktown; taking on the role of Domestic Violence Liaison Officer. It was 2009 and Genelle was aged 48.

After seeing the seriousness of domestic violence within the Blacktown community, Genelle has made it her personal mission to raise awareness of the issue facing many families. On top of her duties as an officer, she got involved with White Ribbon, an organisation that works to prevent male violence against women.

Leading by example, Genelle is constantly working to encourage others in the community to support the cause. During 2013 she raised over $10,000 by organising a bike ride from Newcastle to Blacktown, enlisting colleagues and high ranking NSWPF members to join her. Following this success Genelle raised over $50,000 through a similar bike ride, a high tea, a City to Surf team and other various fundraisers. Her activities and passion have inspired many others to host their own fundraising and awareness events.

A mother of four children and grandmother to two, a happy home life is important to Genelle. She is often found spreading the word about the seriousness of domestic violence. Dedicating her spare time to the cause, she is a frequent speaker at community groups, schools, churches and rotary groups to raise awareness about the impacts this blight on society has on children, families and communities.

Testament to her passion to raise money and reduce violence against women, she has inspired many others to host their own fundraising and awareness events. And this year Genelle has been invited to speak at the Anita Coby Memorial Service and will be presenting at the Australasian Council of Women and Policing.

Genelle's talents don't end there, she is a lifelong lover of horses. As a young adult she was awarded the title of NSW Junior Dressage Champion. Since then, she has been sharing her gift by teaching others to ride with a number of her riding students achieving Australian Champion status. Some of Genelle’s former students are now serving in the NSW Police Force Mounted Unit.