Merle Clayton wins James O'Neil Award

WELL DONE: Merle Clayton will be presented the James O'Neil Community Service Award by the Port Fairy Belfast Lions Club. Picture: Anthony Brady
WELL DONE: Merle Clayton will be presented the James O'Neil Community Service Award by the Port Fairy Belfast Lions Club. Picture: Anthony Brady

A PORT Fairy woman who continues to volunteer into her ninth decade will be honoured on Australia Day.

Merle Clayton, 80, will be awarded the James O’Neil Award for Community Service.

This award will be presented by the Port Fairy Belfast Lions Club. Ms Clayton will receive the award at a ceremony on Fiddler’s Green in Port Fairy on Australia Day.

The service will begin with a free breakfast at 8am, with the presentation to take place at 10am.

Port Fairy Belfast Lions Club member Keith Gibson said Ms Clayton was a worthy winner of the award.

“James O’Neil was a great Lions member, he was very dedicated to the course,” Mr Gibson said.

“That desire to do what he could to help the community is why he was so valued, so the award named in his honour is all about that. Merle is an outstanding community person, like James she has done so much to help the less fortunate.”

Ms Clayton moved to Port Fairy from Hamilton in 1978 after her husband got a transfer with his work with the SEC in Warrnambool.

The couple had three young children and Port Fairy appealed as the place to continue to raise their family.

A trained nurse, Ms Clayton got work with the Port Fairy Borough doing home help.

She later spent time working at Moyneyana House and the Moyne Health Services Day Centre, where she was manager until her retirement in 2002. But she has continued to put her skills to good use in retirement, working at the blood bank, with the National Diabetes Services Scheme and running an activities session every Tuesday at Moyneayna House.

Her community work has gone beyond the health field, having being treasurer of the basketball association when her children were playing and also working as a volunteer at the Port Fairy Visitor Information Centre.

Ms Clayton said being chosen for the James O’Neil award was an honour.

“I was shocked when I heard I had won the award but I am thrilled to bits,” she said.

“Port Fairy is a great place to live and I think that’s why people are prepared to put so much back into the community. To get an award from the Lions club is special because they have always been leaders in community work and getting things done.”