IN response to the devastation the East Gippsland fires have caused, our local communities have stepped up again to support their fellow Gippslanders, through the Lions Club’s Need for Feed program.
The Pakenham Lions Club project picks up and delivers donations of stock feed and other essentials to farmers and rural communities in times of need.
Since featuring on the front page of the Christmas Eve edition of the Sentinel-Times, Wonthaggi Lions Club member Colin Willmott says he has been receiving calls every day from people wanting to make donations.
They have come from Bass to Berry’s Creek and everywhere in between, with donations ranging from a couple bales to a whole shed full.
Colin says they have received over 600 bales and nearly $2000 in cash donations.
On Thursday, January 2, Need for Feed project co-ordinator Graham Cockerell, and three semi-trailers ready to be loaded, came to Wonthaggi to pick up some of the donations and take them to East Gippsland.
Most of the 158 bales that Tony and Tereza Cuzzupi donated a fortnight ago were loaded up by locals who had volunteered their time and machinery to help out.
Colin says he was a little worried about finding people and tractors to load up the trucks, but was overwhelmed with support from those he got in touch with.
Graham said they were headed for Buchan, with an escort arranged to take them through to the small town if it is safe enough; if not they would drop them off at Bairnsdale until they could get through.
“The amount of feed we are able to get to them is probably not going to solve all their problems, but it lets these people know that there are people who care, and eases the pressure they are under for a little while,” Graham said.
Need for Feed was started in 2006 when fires hit a similar part of East Gippsland with just a couple of farmers running feed up as emergency relief, and has grown to doing big runs more than once a month, responding to thousands of requests for help all across the country.
One of the bigger runs they have done was on Father’s Day, which saw as many as 90 trucks, some from as far away as Western Australia, delivering much-needed feed to drought-affected parts of New South Wales.
Graham says that as well as the donations of feed, they rely heavily on financial donations to pay for fuel and meals for their volunteer drivers, as well as putting together ‘household hampers’ and recently Christmas gifts for children in drought and fire-afflicted areas.
Wonthaggi Lions Club president Pam Willmott said they have been touched by the widespread support from the community, especially those who have donated bales or their time and machinery to support the project.
To donate to the project or arrange feed donations, visit www.needforfeed.org.