Wollondilly charities band together to support family in need

The Oaks CWA Evening Branch, Lions Club of Tahmoor, The Grand Lodge at the Sydney Masonic Centre and the Shining Stars Foundation representatives. Picture: Sharon Robertson
The Oaks CWA Evening Branch, Lions Club of Tahmoor, The Grand Lodge at the Sydney Masonic Centre and the Shining Stars Foundation representatives. Picture: Sharon Robertson

When bushfires ripped through Wollondilly, and the neighbouring Wingecarribee shire, in 2019/20 several people lost their homes.

One family in Balmoral was left sleeping rough after the devastating Green Wattle Creek destroyed their home and all of their possessions in December 2019.

Their plight was noticed by Wollondilly resident Sharon Robertson who decided that something needed to be done to help.

"They lost absolutely everything - including all of their Christmas presents," she said.

"Since then they have been sleeping in a tent on the property and paying a mortgage on a house that is no longer there."

The family of three, who chose not to be named for privacy reasons, didn't have insurance due to the financial strain of looking after their parents who are in ill health.

They also suffered job loss for six months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Robertson said living in a tent was not an ideal situation for the family.

"They needed somewhere warm, secure and dry to stay," she said.

"They kept telling me they didn't need a caravan, that they would be okay but when those cold winter days came around and then snow was forecast in parts of the region, I said to them that I would find a way to get them one.

The tent the family were previously living in. Picture: Sharon Robertson

The tent the family were previously living in. Picture: Sharon Robertson

"I approached a few different charities to get involved including The Oaks CWA, Tahmoor Lions Club and the Masonic Lodge - and they all chipped in.

"Shining Stars got a big chunk of the money, so without them we couldn't have gotten such a good caravan."

The Oaks CWA Evening Branch, Lions Club of Tahmoor, The Grand Lodge at the Sydney Masonic Centre and the Shining Stars Foundation donated thousands of dollars for the cause.

Shining Stars Foundation co-founders Kylee Bentham and Lyn Townsend said this was the first time the charity had been involved in this kind of project.

"We support the homeless through our food and clothing services," Ms Bentham said.

"Being able to collaborate in a group initiative allowed us to purchase this van for the family.

"This family was struggling... they couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel and this was just a nice way to help them get off the ground and out of a tent."

Ms Robertson said the family was grateful for the donation.

"I had a message from them saying their first night in the caravan was amazing because they had somewhere safe to sleep for the first time in a long time," she said.

"They said they rolled over and felt the walls and knew they were safe.

"They think it's fantastic - and the hubby is happy to have a bit of a project to take his mind off of some of the stress.

"And if they lose the land entirely, they'll be able to pack the van and leave knowing that they still have somewhere to stay."

Ms Robertson said she was delighted to see the charities join forces and support a local in need.

"It's about dignity, and sanity. Anyone who has gone through something like this knows the mental health impacts are long lasting," she said.

"People with PTSD, anxiety or depression can put on a good mask but it doesn't just disappear.

"We shouldn't judge people without hearing their stories, and we should do what we can to help out our neighbours.

"It was amazing to see these charities work together - and some of them are planning to work together again in the future."

This story Wollondilly charities band together to support family in need first appeared on Wollondilly Advertiser.