Deputy Mayor Paul Bell with appeal administrator Merrilyn Richardson and co-ordinator Lorna Hicks.
Deputy Mayor Paul Bell with appeal administrator Merrilyn Richardson and co-ordinator Lorna Hicks.

We made it!

TWO young children unfurled their fingers and out tumbled $5.60 in coins.

There wasn’t a dry eye at the Emerald Neighbourhood Centre that day as the tots, accompanied by their mother, proudly explained it was their contribution to the local flood appeal.

It was that sort of selfless example that exemplified the community spirit of Central Highlanders who scraped and dug into their savings to help out mates and strangers, the indiscriminate victims of the 2010 flood.

What began as a bold boast by Deputy Mayor Paul Bell – that a local appeal could raise $1 million – became a reality on Monday, May 23, when the magic marker was hit, and was then surpassed.

“It has been an amazing, heart-led response,” Cr Bell said.

“When we found out we had passed the $1 million mark, I haven’t stopped smiling.

“Not one person who was genuinely affected was rejected.”

Some 320 families and individuals to date have had their applications assessed and money doled out by Neighbourhood Centre mentor Lorna Hicks and her team. There is $70,000 left in the appeal coffers, with another donation of $100,000 soon to materialise.

As much as mums and dads, kids and small businesses have shown their compassion, the big corporates too showed heart.

Cr Bell was the first to admit he called in plenty of favours to woo the boardroom donors.

“There were other funds around, but to support a local fund and to have faith in us, the Queensland Rail, Xstrata, BMA, Jellinbah, Santos – they all came good,” he said.

“Small businesses too were fantastic here, who ran everything from 10 cents a beer poured for a month (Capella Hotel) to the proceeds of weekend specials at some of the machinery shops and taking up individual collections and having fun coffee days.

“It happened everywhere and when our sister city (Fujisawa) just recently gave over another $1500 after the trauma of being 35km away from one of the biggest tsunamis to hit the coast, you just think it’s a beautiful world.”

Cr Bell said the appeal fund would be reviewed at the end of July, with the possibility of keeping it open to build up a fully tax deductible reserve in the event of another natural disaster.

Applicants are still being assessed on a daily basis, and although numbers are falling off, it has enhanced the processing time

“We just think there is a real place for community funds like ours,” Cr Bell said.

“It is responsive, it’s quick and it doesn’t have any inbuilt barriers or income or other tests.”

Cr Bell said as winter gripped the Highlands and some flood victims assessed the cold, hard facts of the end of a financial year, it was believed the last wave of obdurate, mainly male residents would start to emerge.

“I just think you wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but here, because you feel that really great feeling.”

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