Shining light in darkest times
ONLY formed on November 9, 2019, to answer the call for emergency bushfire aid, Central Coast Disaster Relief (CCDR) has now also helped the community cope with floods and virus in its short life.
Carly Pal is the energy behind the group, which now has almost 8500 Facebook followers and strong support from the seniors community.
"I'd have to say the majority of our support is from the older community," Carly said.
A recent donation had her close to tears, when an elderly woman handed over $100 in groceries that she had saved up over three pension cheques for CCDR's food hampers.
"This woman was struggling herself and she made this huge gesture to help others," Carly said.
Having previously made and distributed care packages for the homeless with her children, Carly said wanting to do her bit when the bushfire crisis hit NSW had been the catalyst for CCDR. She put out the call for books, clothes, blankets and other provisions people would need immediately, and was overwhelmed by the support.
"It just snowballed from there; within a couple of days I had thousands of responses," she said.
Wyong's That Big Self-Storage Place in Amy Cl got behind her, offering Carly storage … and with the help of her teenage kids Shayli and Caleb, supporters and an army of older volunteers, she has not looked back.
"You hear so much negativity about teens, but my kids spend their weekends and holidays at the storage facility sorting and helping out; I'm super proud of them," Carly said.
She said CCDR had helped people across the state from the Victorian to the Queensland borders, with the demand from people in need in fire-affected communities "really heart-breaking".
CCDR was able to fill the gap for those who needed immediate necessities such as clothes and food, and couldn't wait for cash donations or government payments.
Fire victims were replaced by victims of flood in February, and people struggling through loss of employment in March-May.
"We've been inundated by local families needing assistance; a lot have lost jobs," Carly said.
However, the elderly are also suffering through isolation, feeling "locked up and alone" with lack of transport and mobility, and no one visiting.
"It's definitely impacting a lot of people," she said.
CCDR has now grown into a weekly outreach service helping the homeless and disadvantaged across the Coast, providing food hampers, toiletries, snack packs, bedding and clothing to those doing it tough.
Carly highlighted one of the outreach regulars, in his 70s, "a really lovely gentleman of advanced years who is a privilege to know" but who lives in fear for his safety in his Housing Department home.
With many of CCDR's own volunteers being seniors, more vulnerable to COVID-19 and therefore self-isolating for their health, she said it had been a struggle to fulfil everyone's requests, but she was not giving up.
To donate goods, Find CCDR on Facebook or contact Carly at centralcoast email@example.com.