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Caring Klarkowski awarded Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation’s Chairman’s Medal

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His enthusiasm is infectious.

So, it’s easy to see why Derryck Klarkowski was awarded the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation’s (NPCF) Chairman’s Medal this week for his service to children living in poverty.

The accolade, first presented in honour of the late Michael Slater who spent more than 50 years volunteering his time and talents to local organisations, is recognition for an outstanding volunteer who sets aside their own priorities to better the community.

And, Mr Klarkowski fits that description to a T.

Eight years, almost 24,000 children and in excess of 645,000 donated items… that’s his impact through his charity We Care Connect.

Established in Wyong in 2016, the volunteer-led organisation supplies everything from clothes and bedroom items to school supplies and birthday presents to thousands of youngsters and families each year.

Those supported include children experiencing financial disadvantage, family violence, chronic medical conditions or are at risk of homelessness.

“It’s very humbling to receive this acknowledgement,” Mr Klarowski said.

“While I am the volunteer with the official CEO title, this award really is a reflection of the incredible contribution that all of the We Care volunteers past and present have given.”

We Care Connect CEO and founder Derryck Klarkowski at the Thornton warehouse. Photo: Rod Thompson

For Mr Klarkowski, co-founding the organisation was a retirement project that embraced his passion for volunteering and supporting people in need.

As a medical laboratory scientist by profession, his special interest in immunohaematology, tropical medicine and viral infections took him to developing nations with Médecins San Frontières, while he also spent two years as a volunteer in Eritrea.

He managed all this while also leading with the Venturer Scouts and serving with the NSW Rural Fire Service when on home soil.

We Care Connect team member Helen Barker said Mr Klarowski inspired countless others to give.

“Every person who’s lucky enough to meet or volunteer with Derryck is humbled and in awe of this community movement he’s created,” she explained.

“He shares his vision and wisdom with a grace and generosity that, without a doubt, is making a tangible impact to alleviate the unthinkable struggles for children living in poverty.”

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation’s newly-appointed chair Catherine Robson admitted it was fitting Mr Klarowski was recognised during National Volunteer Week.

“Derryck is known at We Care Connect as a volunteer CEO who leads from the ground up, tackling any job that needs doing including packing donations, repairing furniture and maintaining the warehouse, regularly dedicating five to seven days a week to the cause,” she said.

“Through his and his team’s hard work, We Care Connect has now expanded to the Hunter and sees 120 volunteers across two sites collaborate with 300 case workers from 100 social support agencies.

“The number of children who are better off thanks to their support is amazing.

“But, there’s a phenomenal impact that you can’t quantify – restoring safety, dignity and self-worth to these kids and their families.

“Derryk remains at the heart of everything achieved by We Care Connect… and it has been our privilege at the foundation to be along for part of this ride.”

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