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This one’s for mum, says Maitland’s top citizen Todd Sheldon

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Susan Roskell would be looking down from heaven with a big smile on her face today.

And, rightly so.

Her son Todd Sheldon was named Maitland’s Citizen of the Year for his – and that of his family’s – selfless work, which pays homage to his late mother.

The Bolwarra Heights resident has been instrumental in the ongoing success of the Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive, a community initiative established to provide presents to children impacted by the effects of family violence, homelessness, illness or injury.

The Sheldon family – Todd, Penny and Lachlan – prepare for the Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive. Photo: Peter Stoop

Since 2016, more than 25,000 “goodies” have been distributed, via a network of local charities – Maitland Region Community Support, The Backpack Venture, Early Links, Carrie’s Place and Got Your Back Sister, among others.

“What an honour?” Mr Sheldon said.

“I know mum would be really proud.

“However, I couldn’t have done this without Penny and Lachlan by my side.

“They’re as big a part of the toy and gift drive as me.

“I’m just the one who seems to be front and centre all the time,” he added with a laugh.

“Growing up, I saw mum work two or three jobs, which meant I had to look after my little brother at night.

“So, in 2016, we kicked off the toy and gift drive, as a mark of respect to her and what she’d put into the community.

“Sadly, we lost her to pancreatic cancer in 2021.

“That’s when we decided to rename it the Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive.

“Naming it after mum was truly special.

“But, to win this award in our inaugural year – under the Susan Roskell tag – amplifies that feeling.”

Maitland Citizen of the Year Tod Sheldon with his award.

Mr Sheldon, who faced many hardships during his own childhood, admitted it was “just the start” of the journey.

“I’m surprised but not too surprised by how much we’ve grown,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“I know how good community is – and how easy it is to draw on that community spirit.

“The amount of people jumping on board for 2023 is overwhelming; it’s so different from when we began.

“We’re very happy [with where we’re at], however we need to push on from here and support more children and families.

“And, we are just about to go down the process of setting up charitable status.

“That will make a massive difference to the Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive.

“So, if you’re thinking of joining the fold, as we’re always seeking volunteers, then get in touch – our website is operational.”

Sheldon
Todd Sheldon, supported by Maitland state MP Jenny Aitchison, son Lachlan, Daniel Lewkovitz (CEO of Calamity Monitoring) and Sarah Adams (Maitland Neighbourhood Centre manager), at a previous Toy and Gift Drive. Photo: Peter Stoop

Meanwhile, it was a double celebration for Metford teenager Emily Causley at Maitland City Council’s official 2023 Australia Day ceremony at East Maitland Bowling Club on 26 January.

Her role as a student body leader at Maitland Christian School, as well as her creative extracurriculars, earned her two accolades: Young Citizen of the Year and Creative Arts Person of the Year.

Miss Causley, 18, has sung and acted at Maitland Musical Society and Angie Ussher’s Music Company for six and four years respectively, as well as volunteered with Living Hope Maitland Church of Christ for the past six years.

Nominated for both awards by her school, her participation in productions, band, carnivals and events was heralded, as well as her “commitment to serving her community in a manner that promotes the welfare and wellbeing of [others]”.

Maitland City mayor Philip Penfold said this year’s recipients represented the broad spectrum of people who live, work and enjoy recreation in Maitland.

“It is an honour to step up to the stage and acknowledge those who are so passionate about serving our community and making Maitland a better, brighter place to live,” he explained.

“From volunteering their spare time to helping their neighbour, to showcasing their talent in a field that they are passionate about, this year’s recipients underline the fact that the Maitland community is full of caring, considerate, creative and inspiring people.”

The ceremony also introduced four new annual plaudits: The City of Maitland Service Award (that went to Greg Queenan), which recognises outstanding individual voluntary service to the Maitland community; The City of Maitland Medal (Millers Forest Progress Association), which is awarded to an organisation or group for outstanding voluntary service; Creative Arts Person of the Year (Emily Causley), which recognises achievement in a creative field or artform; and Sportsperson of the Year (Kaelyn Liddell), for significant achievement in a non-professional sporting field.

Cr Penfold, along with Maitland state MP Jenny Aitchison, welcomed 29 new citizens, too, from 16 countries, including Iraq, Egypt, Belgium and Nigeria.

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