Former stock dealer Foo Say Thye was so inspired by his friend, whose wedding 25 years ago was attended by many people with disabilities whom he had helped, that he started doing volunteer work himself.
Mr Foo, 52, has since worked with a variety of organisations, such as the Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital, Sree Narayana Mission and the Community Chest.
He started his own volunteer group called Heartwarmers in 2007. Among other initiatives, they serve breakfast to the elderly at Christalite Methodist Home every week.
In 2017, they began running a project to help lower-middle-income beneficiaries - who fall short of the criteria for financial assistance schemes but still need some form of help - to buy groceries at a 50 per cent discount.
Mr Foo was one of the five winners of the annual Silent Heroes Awards conferred by social welfare organisation Civilians Association of Singapore yesterday.
"Actually all my volunteers and supporters are silent heroes too, and this award should be shared with all of them," said Mr Foo, a personal assistant to a businessman.
First given out in 2014, the annual awards aim to recognise Singaporeans and permanent residents who have made a difference in their communities without seeking any rewards or recognition.
Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee presented the awards at the Shangri-La Hotel.
He said at the gathering: "Their examples spur us to be catalysts of change too.
"We're not just holding them up as heroes, but doing so so that people across Singapore will be inspired to step forward, roll up your sleeves and make a difference."
There were 45 nominations this year, with five winners chosen from a shortlist of 14 by four judges, including Securities Investors Association (Singapore) president and chief executive David Gerald and Assistant Professor Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University.
The other winners included Madam Rowena Leong, 72, who has volunteered since she was 48.
Among other activities, the part-time nurse in a clinic looked after elderly people living in rental flats in Lavender for about five years. She cleaned their homes, cooked for them and lent them a listening ear.
Another winner, Mr Jeremy Tong, 29, an outdoor education specialist, raised more than $13,000 for the Children's Cancer Foundation this year through climbing Mount Everest in May and undertaking a 42km walk across Singapore that he organised in July.
Lim Min Zhang