Paula Rutter says she is continually amazed at the generosity of the Deniliquin and district community, which is enthusiastically supporting a range of bushfire crisis appeals.
Mrs Rutter and her colleagues Louise Mace and Val Hughes, who all have family and friends impacted by the crisis, called for donations of toiletries late last week.
Within 48 hours, Mrs Rutter was headed to the Wangaratta evacuation centre with a car load of donations.
She estimates the donated items had a combined value of $7500.
More donations have been offered since then, with another carload of items headed for the Wagga evacuation centre this weekend.
‘‘I was feeling very helpless after my brother was evacuated from Batemans Bay on Friday, and I also have a daughter who is on watch and act at Wangaratta,’’ Mrs Rutter said.
‘‘But it was not only me with family in the affected areas, all of us St George girls have family affected by this devastation.
‘‘We all wanted to do something to help and we decided that toiletry packs would be a great start for those who had to leave their houses with nothing.
‘‘We first put a call out for donations at about 6.30pm on Friday night and by lunchtime on Saturday, my lounge room was overflowing with donations.’’
Mrs Rutter made up bags of essential items including shampoo and conditioner, deodorants, shaving items, tissues, toothpaste, toothbrushes and combs.
‘‘My husband Darren and I drove the first lot of bags over to Wangaratta showgrounds, where the evacuation centre is, on Sunday.
‘‘They were extremely grateful and appreciative that they were in bags and they didn’t have to sort through things. It meant people were able to receive a pack immediately.
‘‘By the time we got home Sunday night, there was another line of donations on my front verandah.
‘‘It was extremely overwhelming and humbling to receive what we did in such a short time.
‘‘I think there are a lot of people who just want to do something and this makes you feel a little less useless.
‘‘So, thank you so much to the Deni community; we know things are tough with the drought, job losses and a variety of other things, but it did not stop you from opening up your hearts and wallets to this enormous tragedy that is enveloping Australia.’’
With toiletries for the two closest evacuation centres now covered, Mrs Rutter said they are now encouraging people to support other local appeals.
They have specifically endorsed an appeal being coordinated by Maggie Sutton, to donate school supplies to fire affected communities.
The school teacher is specifically asking for stationery items such as pencils, rubbers, highlighters, scissors, glue, textas, rulers and other school items such as bags, drink bottles, lunch boxes and pencil cases. Donations can be left at Wired Entertainment.