Freeling community rally behind NSW fire victims

Freeling's Gungellan Hotel which has become a dropping hub for donations to support two NSW towns affected by the devastating fires burning interstate. Photo: Facebook
Freeling's Gungellan Hotel which has become a dropping hub for donations to support two NSW towns affected by the devastating fires burning interstate. Photo: Facebook

A lifetime of memories lost in South Australi's devastating Pinery Fires has led a local hotelier to act quickly, bringing relief to those dealing with the aftermath of fires which continue to rage interstate.

Helen Hatch, from Gungellan Hotel, and her merry band of supporters this week put out the call to Freeling and surrounds community to assist those affected by the NSW and QLD fires.

In response, the popular watering hole - named Gungellan in the 2000s after television series McLeod's Daughters came to town - is filling with generous community donations, including clothing and everyday items.

The business woman's appeal comes after the township was affected by the Pinery Fires which this month marks the fourth anniversary.

The fires, which took hold on November 25, 2015, sadly claimed the lives of two people and in its path destroyed 97 homes, 546 farm structures, 413 pieces of farm equipment, 74,000 head of livestock and poultry.

It also burnt 85,000 hectares, including $30 million worth of unreapt crops.

For Helen the uncontrollable inferno left her family without a home, taking with it precious memories.

It's this personal feeling of loss and devastation which has led the community to support two particular NSW towns, they believe resonates the feeling of their township.

In a post to the public, by Freeling resident Matt Timmis, he shared how the the community knows exactly what it's like to lose everything.

...so we are asking for donations to put into gift cards for the people affected by fires in the towns of Taree, NSW and Bobin.

Freeling resident Matt Timmins

"...so we are asking for donations to put into gift cards for the people affected by fires in the towns of Taree and Bobin," he said.

Within three days the core group have been active in seeking donations, plus organising a truck for transportation of goods and setting up a 'go fund me' page.

According to Mr Timmins, the page is designed to achieve donated funds to provide gift vouchers to the townspeople for everyday items "they cannot go without".

"I myself and close friends were effected (sic) by the pinery fires here in South Australia 4 years ago some lost cars houses everything they own and we got help from NSW CFS and donations from EVERYWHERE so it's time to give back..." he shared.

Mr Timmins added how he continues to thank his lucky stars for his life and the survival of his property.

"My home had only been finished four months before the fires came," he explained.

Freeling resident Matt Timmins' social media message to the community urging for support for interstate people affected by the ongoing fires.

Freeling resident Matt Timmins' social media message to the community urging for support for interstate people affected by the ongoing fires.

Meanwhile, Helen Hatch's good friend and fellow Freeling resident Julie-anne Kelly has jumped onboard urging the community to make their donations by Wednesday, November 27.

The truck is already scheduled to head interstate on Monday, December 2.

In addition to these efforts, Gungellan Hotel will host a Pizza Fundraiser evening on Saturday, November 23 from 4pm-9pm with the public invited to attend. Dine in and takeaway available and pre-orders encouraged.

Pizzas will sell for $20 with $5 from each sale donated to supporting the NSW towns.

Since the call was put other many individuals and businesses have stepped forward, including Gawler Belt company Edlan Freight who have generously donated fuel and a truck to transport the goods, Valley Enterprises, Tanunda, with animal food, Tanunda nurses with a suitcase of toiletries and On the Run providing fuel vouchers, to name a few.

How you can help

Donations are asked of good, clean clothing, including men's work clothes and boots, children's toys, toiletries, books and pet foods.

No furniture of bulky goods will be accepted.

Drop off stations are located at: Gungellan Hotel, 2 Gray Street, Freeling, and for those in town, head to Dave Benson Caravans, DB Finishings at Parafield and radio station Mix 102.3.

You can also follow the town's fundraising efforts by visiting the Gungellan Hotel Facebook page.

This story SA patrons turn memories into fire support first appeared on Barossa & Light Herald.