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Vinnies bushfire volunteers

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Firefighters respond as flames lick the edge of a property at Clagiraba in the Gold Coast hinterland.

Regional volunteers for the St Vincent de Paul Society in NSW have been working tirelessly in comforting and supporting the affected in the wake of the raging bushfires on the East Coast.

The Catholic Weekly spoke to Vinnies volunteer Marlene McWilliams on Tuesday 12 November. Marlene, a local of Forster – a town on the Mid-north Coast of NSW close to the fires- personally knew of people who had been evacuated from danger zones.

“Vinnies is our own initiative we are a local charity and we are offering services to those in need: food clothing, petrol and blankets,” she said.

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An emergency shelter sign PHOTO: CNS photo/Marco Bello, Reuters

Vinnies volunteers have been working in conjunction with other volunteer groups at evacuation centres set up by the NSW Rural Fire Service. Marlene, who could not speak for long, highlighted the urgency of the work at hand. “Conditions have worsened; we have just received couple of phone calls for more evacuees. It’s been a busy weekend and it’s going to be even busier starting tonight,” she said.

Nevertheless, the crisis has given rise to a heroic solidarity in the community. “It’s been an amazing display of solidarity from the Catholic community at Holy Name parish in Forster.”

The Cabbage Tree Island Community near Ballina also received help from Vinnies. “Up to 100 people needed evacuating because of power failure resulting from fire, and Vinnies provided support with personal essentials, including food, when they came into town. The help from Vinnies was absolutely fantastic,” said Ruth Powis from the Jali Aboriginal Land Council in Ballina.

Vinnies members Bill Baragry, Liz Royal, and Marlene McWilliams supported locals at the Forster Vinnies Shop over the weekend, even while their own homes were threatened by bushfires. PHOTO: Vinnies NSW

If you are in need of assistance or are looking to volunteer visit a local Vinnies store or call on 13 18 12 or visit the website to donate to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal Appeal


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