By Matt Male
THE local community has come together to support the family of the late Bill Slade, who tragically passed away while working in the East Gippsland bushfires, to totally rebuild the family’s home in Glen Forbes.
The value of the discounts, donations and labour from businesses and individuals would easily extend into the tens of thousands of dollars – nay, upwards of $100,000.
To say it’s a renovation would be an understatement.
Over the past few days, their home has rapidly undergone extensive works with new cladding, windows, flooring, kitchen, painting inside and out, fencing, firewood shed, and more. It’s a brand-new home.
Carol and Bill Slade built the house together more than three decades ago after they got married. It was their first family home.
“He’d be overwhelmed by all of this,” Carol said on Saturday.
“These are beautiful people,” she said, “everyone has been wonderful”.
Bill and his nephew Brad Hender had planned to replace the pergola over summer, starting on the Australia Day long weekend.
“Bill was going to retire and he asked a couple of times to come and replace the pergola that went around the house – it was a bit rotten – so we planned to start ripping it up on the Australia Day weekend and obviously he didn’t make it ‘till then.”
Brad was just going to going to do it himself.
“Then I made a few phone calls and then it just grew and grew and grew.
“I made a few more phone calls for materials. Taranto’s in Wonthaggi, for example, they’ve been amazing. Van Steensels got on board.
“Everyone just wanted to be part of it and help.”
Organisers were keen for it to be part of a TV show like the good ol’ Backyard Blitz.
“But we couldn’t wait,” said Brad’s sister and Bill’s niece, Rachael Coyne.
“We wanted to do it while it was fresh in people’s minds and so it was comfortable for Carol, and her kids Ethan and Steph.
“So, we gathered the troops and everyone’s just jumped right in.”
Carol recalled going up to South Gippsland Hire to pick up a toilet she ordered a few weeks ago.
“We went up there to pick it up and they found it that it was for Bill. They said: ‘He used to come in here all the time. Here, just take it’.”
It was a similar story for most other businesses. You just had to say it was for the Slade family and it would be handed out for free without question or sold at cost price.
Of course, there was plenty of tradies. But there was also everyday people who wanted to help anyway they can.
A kitchen was set-up outside to feed the hungry team of workers, with a spitroast on Saturday night thanks to Wonthaggi Butchers.
It’s hard to put into words how thankful the family are for the support they’ve received over the last few days, and since Bill’s sudden passing.
Carol and Bill’s son Ethan works at the IGA in San Remo.
His colleagues worked on Friday. But you wouldn’t have found them at the store. Their boss paid them a day’s wage to help out in Glen Forbes.
Parks Victoria did the same. Many worked a day and then volunteered over the weekend too.
The Parks Vic crew felled, cut, split and stacked about 25sqm (a massive amount!) of firewood for the Slade family, with Bill’s daughter Steph on their team.
On Saturday, Parks Victoria are chief ranger Gerard Delaney presented Carol, Ethan and Steph with 2019/2020 South Gippsland Fire Crew shirts and hoodies that had the words “In memory of Bill Slade” added to them this year. They were paid for with money raised by Parks Vic staff.
Prior to the working bee, Envirogain donated their time and resources to spray all the weeds on the property, and the Gurdies Firewood Depot donated and delivered firewood.
“I just want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone. I’m overwhelmed by the generosity, not only today, but since Bill’s passing,” Carol said.
“People have dropped in food, they’ve visited, picked me up and taken me places – friends and family have just gone above and beyond.
“They’ve made it so much easier for the kids and just to know that we’ve got so many people out there.
“The neighbours have been unreal.”
Bill and Carol would’ve done the same if it happened to someone they knew.
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