Cleve names Australia Day 2020 winners

BEHIND THE SCENES: Cleve Area School staff member Ros Elson, student Brigit Taheny and Parents and Friends volunteer Deb Taheny with Don Smith.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Cleve Area School staff member Ros Elson, student Brigit Taheny and Parents and Friends volunteer Deb Taheny with Don Smith.

A driving force of local community groups and an event marking a major milestone for the town will be celebrated at the Cleve Australia Day breakfast this year.

The Cleve district has named Don Smith as the 2020 Citizen of the Year award winner, with the Community Event of the Year category taken out by the Cleve Area School for its 70th birthday celebrations.

Mr Smith is a Cleve local through and through, and has spent decades involved in initiatives including the Apex Club, the Eyre Regional Development board and the local tourism and community development group of which he was chairman for about ten years.

Most notably, Mr Smith has played an integral role in the establishment of new community groups in town.

When the Cleve Lions floated the idea of setting up the Cleve and Districts Probus Club about 16 years ago, Mr Smith said despite having previously never heard of the initiative, he went knocking on doors drumming up interest.

About 90 people turned up to a public meeting on establishing the club, which still attracts about 50 people to its monthly meetings.

"The community needed something like that," Mr Smith said.

"They could never seem to get out and meet other people... that was a way that they could."

Over the past two years Mr Smith has played a significant role establishing the Cleve and Districts Men's Shed after seeing a need to provide men in the town with a social outlet.

Financial membership has since grown to 37 and counting, and Mr Smith said he could see the positive impact the group was having.

"It gives me a sense of achievement because it's good to see people able to mix and enjoy people's company, he said.

However, he credits the wider community for the clubs' successes.

"Individuals are fine, but they're no good without groups", he said.

The 70th anniversary of the opening of the Cleve Area School took on a life of it's own late last year, with the school bringing back the old spring fair and inviting the entire community.

People of all ages packed the school lawn for an evening of old-fashioned stalls and entertainment, with at least 400 people from former and current school families attending.

Parents and Friends member Deb Taheny said those who worked on the event were "honoured" to receive the award for the event, which she said surpassed all expectations.

She said given the difficult conditions in 2019, the event was an opportunity for positivity among the challenges.

"It was so timely for our community... schools have the opportunity to bring a whole community together," she said.

Staff member Ros Elson said it was great to bring in both current and former members of the school community.

"It's a chance to catch up with staff, students that were here and just see how things have changed," she said.

She said the success of the school fair style event could potentially see similar events in the future for fundraising.

"Especially if we keep having tough years it's a way of bringing people together," she said.