BUSINESS people Glenn and Katia Dwarte have spent many years establishing themselves in the area but said their nominations for Order of Australia (OAM) medals came completely out of the blue.
The couple, who opened the Warilla McDonalds in 1994 and have since added the Warrawong and Stocklands Shellharbour franchises to their family business, have built a strong reputation in the community through their philanthropic work.
On Sunday they were recognised for that work, receiving OAM awards.
Their contribution to the community includes the donation of medical equipment (beds, heart monitors and a Bi-Pap machine) to Shellharbour Public Hospital; helping raise money for the burns unit at Westmead Children’s Hospital (with the Illawarra Fire Brigade); and support of the St Vincent De Paul Society, Illawarra area Shark Patrol, St George Illawarra rugby league team and Illawarra/Wollongong Hawks basketball team.
However, it’s their generosity to disadvantaged people at Christmas that is close to their hearts.
“Each Christmas Eve for the past 20 years we have hosted a dinner for people who are a bit down on their luck, with the assistance of St Vincent De Paul and the Shellharbour City Baptist Church,” Mr Dwarte said.
“Christmas can be a very depressing time for people who don’t have a lot, including single parents, and we have always believed that if you’re in a position to help people less fortunate than you, you should.
“It’s also very heartening that we can give a lot of local kids a start in their working life, with four of those young people now four of our store managers.”
Mr Dwarte said they were surprised when they were first approached about accepting the nomination several months ago.
“When we found out we were on the 2014 list of recipients we were very honoured and very proud – we are very proud Australians,’’ he said.
Mrs Dwarte has spent her whole working life at McDonalds. Her first job was in the drive-through the first day McDonalds opened in Warrawong, in 1978. The couple now own that business.
“If you like the business, why not buy it?” Mrs Dwarte said.