True community heroes

John Boccanfuso, Amanda Barnes and Graeme Banks at Westfield Penrith
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Devoted, selfless, reliable and passionate.

These are just some of the words that describe three local residents who have made incredible contributions to their community.

And now Graeme Banks, Amanda Barnes and John Boccanfuso have another thing in common, with all three recently announced as Westfield Penrith’s 2018 Local Heroes.

Receiving a $10,000 grant to contribute towards their initiatives, the trio are set to help their beloved organisations continue to grow and prosper.

A part-time youth worker for Top Blokes Foundation and Platform Youth Services, as well as volunteering with Rotary International each week, Ms Barnes has already helped many young men cope with difficult life situations.

And now thanks to the grant, she plans to reach out to thousands more.

“It’s humbling to be named as a Westfield Local Hero, but recognition is not why we do this work,” she said.

“At the moment Top Blokes Foundation are in three regions around Sydney, but if we had an online program, we could reach young men who can’t physically attend the mentoring program face-to-face.”

Joining Ms Barnes as a winner is a familiar face from Westfield Penrith, Mr Boccanfuso, who has sold over a million pens to raise money for House With No Steps since he started way back in 1974.

Feeling proud of his achievement, Mr Boccanfuso said he was also happy that House With No Steps will get to benefit, with the $10,000 grant going towards buying a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

Recognised for his dedication to Mama Lana’s Community Foundation, 73-year-old Mr Banks said that the grant would enable utilities and ongoing vehicle running costs to be covered for a year.

Mr Banks’ most touching experience with the Foundation came after helping a man who had been living in his car for two years move into a flat.

“I’d helped him move all his goods into the apartment and when we were finished, it started raining,” Graeme said.

“He turned to me and said: ‘Thanks so much, I’ll be dry tonight’. That was one of the most moving moments of my time volunteering.”

The Westfield community recognition and grants program was created to recognise individuals whose work promoted social wellbeing and harmony.

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