Everyone is behind the devastating fires in East Gippsland, this week an impromptu effort by four Leongatha farmers put 10 truckloads of hay on the road.

THE harrowing images of devastation in East Gippsland, and the state’s North East, have not been lost of South Gippslanders, who rallied strongly to the cause over the weekend.
At Wonthaggi alone on Sunday, $350,000 worth of goods were collected at the local fire station, a staggering effort according to Bass Coast Mayor Cr Brett Tessari.
“Sunday was a perfect example of what people are feeling, it’s almost helplessness but to see what I witnessed at Wonthaggi on Sunday, with 165 pallets of food, water, health products and other goods collected in one day, it’s certainly heart-warming,” Cr Tessari said.
“Everyone has been touched by what we have seen on our TVs from up there. It’s been horrific and really, it’s just the beginning.
“We don’t know what the outcome will be,” he said.
But if they needed a reminder, they got it yesterday when thick, acrid smoke rolled into our lush, safe neighbourhood overnight on Sunday.
It underscored the fact that “we’re all in this together” and added purpose to the latest effort, a 10-truck convoy of hay, along with several utes, which rolled out of Leongatha on Monday morning this week bound for Bruthen and Buchan.
Organised by four locals and their families; Brenton Williams, Marty Paterson, Matt Holt and Jareth Hume; it was an impromptu effort which followed a cry for help from East Gippsland dairy farmer Craig Calvert who spent 13 hours last Monday and Tuesday fighting off an inferno to save his family’s farm at Wiseleigh, just west of Bruthen.
Craig, we’re told, was ecstatic with the gesture.
The hay drive follows the donation and delivery of a further 600 bales from the Wonthaggi area, through the Wonthaggi Lions Club and the ‘Need For Feed’ initiative, kicked off locally by Tony and Teresa Cuzzupi.
That hay rolled out on Sunday but more, much more is still needed, visit www.needforfeed.org.
Meanwhile, at the Leongatha Fire Station on Saturday and Sunday, almost 60 pallets of bottled water, non-perishable food and basic essentials were collected at short notice along with $11,000 in cash.
That special effort was prompted by Michael Wight and other members of a Leongatha CFA strike team after seeing first-hand the destruction of the New Year’s fires.
The local newspapers have got behind it too, publicising the call to donate cash, on line or at any NAB branch, to the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF).
And other special efforts will follow at the Borough Department Store in Korumburra on Wednesday, January 15 from 5.30pm (see story inside), and at the Wonthaggi Club where they will donate $1 from every meal served for the next month.
And these efforts are on top of the direct support of our local fire fighters as members of hard-pressed strike teams.
We’re just so proud of you!

Donations top $350,000 at Wonthaggi CFA for bushfire relief

Rosela Saad and Jessica Maia, both from Melbourne, travelled down to Wonthaggi to drop off goods and lend a hand sorting out all the donations. Mm380120

Ray McCurry (left) and Margaret Sprague (right) from the Rotary Club of Wonthaggi worked with Ash Burnett of Frankston to hand out free sausages in bread to those helping out at the Wonthaggi CFA station – including firies Sheldon Flanagan and Jaci Nation. Mm420120

THE Wonthaggi and surrounding communities have come together in a true show of solidarity for our neighbours up in East Gippsland – donating around $350,000 worth of food, water and other basic essentials.
CFA volunteers were overwhelmed on Sunday with the generosity from locals, Melburnians, and people from overseas, with those from New Zealand and UK using major supermarkets’ online delivery services to drop off goods at the station on White Road.
Others dropped off items in the morning and decided to lend a helping hand; which was desperately needed after receiving trailer loads of donations which slowed down traffic along White Road.
Thankfully, the Wonthaggi SES volunteers came out to assist with traffic management in another example of the multi-agency approach to the bushfires and bushfire relief.
“Most of these people in that back corner got here this morning,” says Wonthaggi CFA captain Arnie Marion – pointing to an area inside the CFA station, “they unloaded their cars and they haven’t left yet”.
That was at 12.30pm.
They started at 8am.
“It’s been overwhelming. I can’t explain what I’m feeling right now.
“It’s definitely touched everyone.
“What started as two tins of baked beans, where we were originally planning on just taking my ute down to the relief centre and maybe a truck, has turned into doing at least two, maybe three, runs with a semi-trailer.”
“Hopefully I’m wrong,” he said, and they will need to do more, as the volunteers packing chanted ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’; ‘Oi oi oi’.
It was a mammoth effort, loading up goods onto pallets, wrapping plastic around them and transporting them over to a neighbouring factory.
Wonthaggi CFA volunteer Garry ‘Moz’ Wilson recently returned from fighting the East Gippsland fires – one of many local firefighters who’ve gone up there to help.
“It was surreal,” he said.
“We were pretty lucky compared to what a lot of people have had.
“The crew coming back today (Sunday) had to stay an extra two days because they couldn’t get out.
“The day turned to night yesterday (Saturday), during the day, in Omeo.”
Wonthaggi CFA’s Jamie Moresco said they’ve had people come from all over the state, including Craigieburn, Rockbank, and Werribee.
Jamie wasn’t expecting this many people when he put up a post on the Wonthaggi CFA Facebook page calling for donations earlier this week.
“It’s reached 135,000 on Facebook. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
“It’s just awesome.”

See the full story and more photos in this weeks edition of the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times.

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