Our people in action

23 March 2022

Vinnies is responding to the floods that have wrought destruction throughout the Northern Rivers by sending staff from across the Society to assist with the clean-up and recovery efforts.

You can help communities impacted by flooding in Northern NSW today by donating at www.vinnies.org.au/nswfloodappeal or calling 13 18 12.

“Devastation, but community helping each other.”

As one of the first batch of Vinnies staff members to lend a hand to flood-ravaged communities on the NSW North Coast, Richard Burgos uses few words to sum up the contrasting emotions felt on the ground.

Making the long trek from Sydney to Lismore in the still of the night with a load of donations in tow, Richard and fellow Logistics leader Martin Pottage leapt straight into action working alongside members of the local fire brigade, Rural Fire Services and Australian Defence Force to clear out the damaged Vinnies Shop in Mullumbimby.

Having already put in a full day’s work prior to making the journey north, the scope of the damage made apparent for Richard that the job ahead over the coming months will be anything but a run-of-the-mill 9-5 shift.

For Karen Ryan, a Tailored Support Coordinator assisting tenants at our social housing sites in Katoomba and Penrith, the scene left in the wake of the subsided flood waters brought to mind images resembling a war zone.

“The sight of the devastation was more than I expected,” Karen explains.

“It was muddy, smelly – things everywhere – furniture, shoes, clothes, rubbish… but also people and services coming together to help and support.”

Putting hands on deck to clean up the Society’s first floor office space, located above the Vinnies Shop in Lismore, after flood waters seeped through the carpet, the immediate response brought new meaning for Karen to the work Vinnies does in communities every day.

“It was good to feel that Vinnies is more than my role… [I got] to see the Vinnies community in Lismore come together and help not just people in need, but Vinnies people.”

As a retail area manager overseeing shops in the Sutherland Shire and Eastern Suburbs, Paula McCormack’s expertise came to the fore at the Lismore Showgrounds, where the team collaborated with Lifeline to establish a Community Distribution Centre, giving locals a supermarket-style experience to pick up food, clothing and household items during the recovery phase.

“People are inherently good,” says Paula.

“We met lots of people who came to Lismore to help by doing whatever they could – cleaning up, sorting donations, nothing was out of bounds – when anyone offered to help, they did it willingly.”

For as helpless as the situation on the ground appeared at times, the sense of connection found in people uniting to support communities during a time of need provided staff with a renewed sense of hope in the power of people.

“There are so many good people out there willing to help [and] donate,” Karen notes.

Vinnies will continue to stand by communities impacted by the worst floods to hit the Northern Rivers with right now and over the long-term.

You can make a difference by generously donating to the Vinnies NSW Flood Appeal by visiting www.vinnies.org.au/nswfloodappeal or calling 13 18 12 to help restore hope to people in their time of need.