Charities focus on their communities’ recovery in aftermath of Cyclone Debbie, floods

4th April, 2017

Lifeline Northern Rivers op shop cleanup after floods

Staff and volunteers clean up the Lifeline Northern Rivers op shop in Lismore after the floods

While Cyclone Debbie and the subsequent floods from torrential rains have devastated communities in Queensland and northern NSW, charity op shops and their warehouses appear to have escaped relatively unscathed.

Sharon Sawyer, Retail Manager for Lifeline Northern Rivers based in Lismore said that while water flooded to within 60 cm of the roof of the Magellan St Lismore Op Shop, they were feeling fortunate that only one shop was damaged in the floods.  We were very fortunate the warehouse was spared so that Lifeline Northern Rivers can still receive donations. The city was evacuated and closed down, so we couldn’t do anything as the waters rose,” Sharon said.

“The damage from the floods is devastating for the community. The ramifications (financially and emotionally) will be felt for many months to come. I feel fortunate to be part of an organization that can help the community through the recovery.”

This sentiment is echoed across the charity retail sector in the affected areas of Queensland and northern NSW.

Vinnies stores in the Whitsundays townships of Bowen, Proserpine and Airlie Beach withstood the cyclone’s 240+kph winds with no significant damage to stock but remain closed as they wait for the electricity supply to be reinstated, the St Vincent De Paul Queensland’s Whitsunday’s retail coordinator, Jonathan Hall said.

He expected the Bowen and Proserpine shops to have power by the end of this week, with Airlie to follow by mid-April. “Airlie was the hardest hit. Damage to flashing on the roof let water in but there was no significant damage to stock. It is not safe for staff and volunteers to be working in the shops without power and many of our people have their own personal circumstances to look after – that has to be the priority.”

Cyclone blows donation bin 100 metres

Jonathan said one of the most interesting tasks has been locating the donation bins that were thrown about in the cyclone. “At Airlie one bin was thrown 100 metres into a paddock and it was half full and would have weighed 500 to 600 kilos,” he said.

Sandy Thorn, Multi Retail Centre Coordinator for Vinnies Mackay in Queensland, said staff at the city’s two op shops and the warehouse had done a tremendous job preparing for the cyclone and while the “horizontal rain found nooks and crannies to get into buildings” there was very little damage.

“We were protected from flooding by the high river bank and therefore very lucky compared with the inundation to eastern Mackay and the inland rural areas west and south of Mackay that were hit by walls of water. I can’t imagine what it would be like for those small communities.”

Neville Barrett Salvos Stores NSW and Qld said a survey of opshops from Cairns to Albury found while there had been some reports of leaking in the heavy rains, there had been no significant loss of stock. “We have already started to assist with the recovery in Brisbane, Mackay and Townsville with clothing and food vouchers for people hard hit by the cyclone and floods.”

The Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has provided $250,000 each to the Australian Red Cross Society, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul Society of Queensland and UnitingCare Community to assist the charities to provide emergency relief and assist people to return to their normal lives.

Vinnies Airlie Beach clothing bin blown 100m by Cyclone Debbie

A 600 kg Vinnies clothing donation bin was thrown 100m into a paddock by Cyclone Debbie