WHEN it comes to community service, there are few people who can say they've done more for Griffith than Babs Donaldson.
Today, the woman with a heart of gold was officially recognised for her decades of good will, receiving a prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia from the Commonwealth.
Mrs Donaldson joins just 900 other Australians on the 2014 Honours List, recognised for their dedication and achievements to their communities and the nation.
Best known as the driving force behind children’s charity Country Hope, Mrs Donaldson also assists 10 other charities including Can Assist, the Cancer Council, Rotary, Inner Wheel, Riding for the Disabled and the Griffith Heart Support Group.
Though she’s always been community-minded, Mrs Donaldson’s passion for charity was sparked during a Rotary mission to Kathmandu in 1994, where she volunteered as a dental nurse.
“I saw so many people who were sick and there was not much medical help for them,” Mrs Donaldson said.
“By the time I came back, I’d lost 15 members of my extended family to cancer and that’s where it all started.”
While she holds a soft spot for any person who is suffering, Mrs Donaldson threw herself whole-heartedly into Country Hope – of which she is a founding member – because she wanted to do all that she could to help sick children.
“It’s a very big charity now,” she said.
“In some of the courses I've done, they teach you to lead with your head and not your heart but it’s very different in this case because most of them are sick little children.
“They are the dearest thing to my heart and it is an emotional roller-coaster sometimes, you do need someone to talk to about it all.”
When she heard she’d been awarded the esteemed honour, Mrs Donaldson said she could not believe it.
“I'm very humbled – I just think there are so many people who deserve it,” she said.
“I really feel quite chuffed.”
But behind every high achiever is a strong support network and for Mrs Donaldson, it has always been her husband, Bill.
“For 53 years we've been married and he’s been just wonderful – he never stopped me from doing anything and he’s always so supportive, nothing is ever too much trouble,” she said.
“My family has always supported me not only on the emotional side, but they've also helped out physically.
“In the early days it was hard going because it was just me – now I have my fundraising support group and I have to thank them for their tireless work.”
Mrs Donaldson also thanked Country Hope director John Soutter, who nominated her for the OAM.
Mr Soutter said Mrs Donaldson’s dedication was clear to anyone who knew her.
“She never whinges or complains, she just goes through the processes and does an enormous number of hours,” Mr Soutter said.
“She’s a tireless worker and she does it selflessly – Babs is an incredible asset to the community.
“She dedicates herself to other people and sacrifices her own time and life to help others.
“This award is certainly worthwhile and it’s long overdue.”