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Grassroots social media campaign delivers $40k of support to drought-affected farmers

Anthony Scully and Jennifer Ingall, Tuesday August 7, 2018 - 17:00 EST
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"We are thinking and praying for you and your family with the drought," writes Georgia from St Phillips Christian College. - ABC

A few Sundays ago Michael Daley was sitting on the veranda of his Newcastle home, reading harrowing stories about drought-affected farmers only two hours up the road, when he was struck by an idea.

"I read a few articles about what was going on — in Tamworth and outside Tamworth," he said.

"I just said to my wife 'well, we just need to do something, I certainly need to do something about this if I can'."

After making "a heap of phone calls" to some people on the ground — Salvation Army, local media, the Country Women's Association — Mr Daley swung into action.

"I contacted a friend of mine and (we) put the Facebook page together and we've gone from there," he said.

The page quickly gathered more than 1,300 followers, and volunteers arranged for 28 local businesses and organisations to act as collection points for non-perishable donated goods.

'Small army' of volunteers rallies to the cause

Last week a 'small army' of volunteers began collecting the donations, including driver and packer Karen McGaw.

"When I heard how many collection points they had, I just said to him 'can I help pick up from a few of the collection points', thinking that I'd be picking up a few groceries," she said.

"I didn't realise in one day I filled my car five times and that was from only three collection points."

On Saturday Ms McGaw arrived at one of the collection points, a cafe in Georgetown, where a carload of groceries was already waiting at 11am.

"The other day I came into the cafe, and you couldn't get to their counter," she said.

"It was about two metres deep out from the counter, so they have been so generous in giving up their space."

At the Daley's home on Saturday a dozen volunteers packed donations into milk crates to be taken in a convoy of utes and trailers.

"Milk crates are easy, because they're easy to pack in the trailers," Mr Daley said.

Donations included hand-drawings, messages of support

Carmel Daley said her home had quickly filled up, starting in the dining room, before spilling out through kitchen, and onto the veranda.

"The generosity has been outstanding with every single can," she said.

"With every single donation, someone's heart and best wishes goes with that."

Some donations had been inscribed with best wishes, others had included handwritten cards and children's drawings of farmers.

"It's very tearful when you're unpacking all this to see all the kindness that goes with it," she said.

On Sunday, Mr Daley and another two friends delivered the first 200 milk crates to the Salvation Army distribution centre in Tamworth.

Yesterday, a convoy of five vehicles with trailers made its way up the New England Highway with the remaining 576 milk crates.

Mr Daley estimated the haul was worth more than $40,000.

Captain Rhonda Clutterbuck from the Salvation Army thanked volunteer driver David Laird upon arrival.

"It's truly tremendous the effort that you guys are making," she said.

"We want you to thank all the people you've been collecting from — to all the businesses and everybody — for allowing us to have collection points, that's been tremendous."

Donations of groceries is great, but cash is best

Captain Clutterbuck said donations of non-perishable goods were welcome at organisations that can manage distribution.

She said the Tamworth distribution centre had been able to pack 400 food hampers for struggling families last Friday alone.

"We can manage the goods, but many sites can't manage the goods," she said.

But she said the most flexible way for ordinary people to support the drought-relief was by making cash donations.

"Cash is always good, because it allows greater flexibility," she said.

"It buys water, it pays electricity bills, it buys fuel, it helps if a car needs to be fixed.

"Hampers are great for filling the cupboard, but you know there are so many other things that our farmers need."

"We need to help our mates out now"

Mr Daley said he said the effects of the drought with his own eyes on his journeys to Tamworth.

"This side of the Great Divide we're not in drought, the other side of the Great Divide it is horrendous," he said.

"Going through Scone, Muswellbrook, Murrurundi, and looking at the grass, well it's not grass, it's straw.

"This is our backyard. We need to help our mates and we need to help our mates now."
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