Macksville BlazeAid needs your help

Shirley and Jenny would love to see some new faces in the BlazeAid kitchen.
Shirley and Jenny would love to see some new faces in the BlazeAid kitchen.

In just over two weeks it'll be one year since our valley experienced its most devastating natural disaster in living memory.

And it's been about 11 months since the Macksville BlazeAid camp first opened its doors to those in our community needing a helping hand.

To date 182 properties have been registered for assistance, and 100 Nambucca Valley properties have had their boundary fences rebuilt by BlazeAid volunteers.

Since February, dozens of international backpackers have lent a hand while sheltering from the turmoil caused by the pandemic.

But now, with restrictions finally lifting in major cities around Australia, many are moving back to the big smoke to find an income.

"I've got five backpackers in camp now, but by this time next week I'll have two left," Camp Coordinator Bob Abdoo said.

"Two weeks ago we had five fencing crews out on site, today we have two."

Bob said the camp needs at least two active fencing crews to keep the operation sustainable.

They closed Glenreagh down and they weren't finished up there - there's still a lot of people up there suffering. I don't want that to happen here.

Macksville BlazeAid Camp Coordinator Bob Abdoo

He's hoping the local community will once again hear their call for help.

And it's not just people with fencing skills needed - there's a real need for assistance back at camp too.

Right now, Shirley is going hell for leather in the kitchen. She's there every day and she's straddling commitments to both BlazeAid and Meals On Wheels.

Currently there's a team of eight - including Jenny who's been there since the camp's inception - slogging it out to feed the camp and clean up the kitchen and dining hall after each meal.

The Macksville CWA and Lions Club are a fabulous relief when they come in once a week.

But more help is needed. Shirley reckons that four more pairs of hands would do the trick. And the more that pitch in, the lighter the workload for everyone involved.

At the beginning of the year, the enthusiasm of the local community knew no bounds. But Shirley and Jenny said they believe COVID scared a lot of locals off - many fearful about being in close proximity to people who may have travelled in from hotspots.

Our area has been coronavirus-free for around six months now. And anyone coming in from a hotspot is required to undergo a COVID-19 test before being permitted entry into the camp.

"And it would even help if people wanted to bring baked things in - they can make it in their own homes then, if they're worried," Shirley said.

Bryan and Robyn gave been volunteering at the Macksville BlazeAid camp for 11 months.

Bryan and Robyn gave been volunteering at the Macksville BlazeAid camp for 11 months.

One of the camp's faithful, Bryan, has no qualms about his safety. He's now clocked up over 100 days' work at the administration centre of the BlazeAid camp.

He and Robyn have been there since the beginning and won't be going anywhere until the job's done.

If you would like to give these legendary volunteers a helping hand, then call Bob on 0476 679 518 or Robyn or Maureen on 0456 926 993.

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