When Jodi Bush drove to Cobargo on the weekend to hand out cash to six families who lost everything in devastating fires that ravaged the small South Coast community she was so moved she wants to do more.
Mrs Bush, of THRIVE Executive, was involved in organising a recent fundraiser supported by fellow Wollongong business people Anne Goodall, Meiling Mjoberg and Briony Wentworth-Ping and was taken aback by how the small gesture meant so much to those she met.
She said with COVID-19 it is easy to lose sight of the other tragedy still impacting thousands of people in our backyard. And is encouraging others to follow the lead set by a handful of businesses who made such a huge impact on the weekend.
Mrs Bush has a place at Eden but had not been back down the coast since the fires. She was amazed by the regeneration of the bush. But it was clear how the impact the natural disaster is having on so many lives will take much longer to recover from. "It is deceiving because life looks like it's going on but when you stop and talk to people you realise how traumatised the community is".
Among those Mrs Bush visited was a family who lost both homes on their property. They are living in caravans and have an un-insulated shed as their living space.
Belinda Shea said the family will use the money to buy a wood heater to help get them through winter.
Their homes are still to be assessed and rubble is yet to be taken away so they don't expect to have permanent accommodation for a very long time..
"This temporary set up is going to last a lot longer than we hoped," she said.
Mrs Shea said having someone come and do what Mrs Bush did on behalf of others in the Wollongong community on the weekend was a real lift to their spirits.
She said the fires had made many South Coast residents aware of what it was like not to be able to get supplies. They were cut off for many days so what was happening now across Australia was not unusual for them.
She said many generous gifts had been made but with so many people displaced they still have nowhere to go or put much of what has been donated.
"But to have people we have never met before come down with money and be able to have the choice of what to buy is amazing," Ms Shea said.
While her family are buying a heater others are using the money for groceries and to restock things they would normally have in their cupboard.
"That is where the money has been so helpful. People are still so lost. There has been no time to recover. People are still traumatised by the fire. And explaining to the kids about the next stage is kind of scary," Mrs Shea said.
"Having people do what Jodi did on the weekend is so lovely and a reminder there is a lot of good out there. And we are so thankful for that".
The Shea family stayed at the showground after fire destroyed their homes and remained there until it was safe to return to their property in caravans.
They had initially remained to fight the fire until they saw the magnitude of the inferno that was descending on their property 7kms from Cobargo on December 30. They now count themselves lucky.
"Our neighbours unfortunately lost their lives," she said..
"We tried very hard but lost the two houses. We lost the house we were living in which my nan and pop own. And then my mum and John lost their place across the way.
"We had the grass contained but then this huge fire monster appeared. You could just hear it coming. The sound of it was indescribable and we realised it was not safe to be here anymore. We drove to town and unfortunately lost both houses. But it was not for lack of trying.
"Mentally it has taken its toll. This has just been so big for so many people. It has been a very slow and lonely process because there has not been a lot of information and there is nowhere to go. It is all very new and very real.
"There are so many people down here who need help. They need to be warm for the winter".
The concept behind the weekend visit all began when Mrs Bush had an idea for a Reset Your Stress workshop. Four Illawarra business people who work in the area of stress reduction donated their services and give 100 per cent of money raised to fire victims at Cobargo.
SAGE Hotel manager Mark Upton made a room available and the event was supported by Jenny Henderson, of What's on Wollongong, SEO specialist Doreen Brown and Rooland Design's Suzanne Haddon.
Mrs Bush provided positive psychology coaching, Anne Goodall authentic hypnotherapy, Meiling Mjoberg meditation and Briony Wentworth-Ping led the 35 participants in yoga.
Around $4000 was raised and Megan Ridgway, who lives Narooma, who lost her own practice to the fire helped connect Mrs Bush with families who had lost their homes.
Her visit on the weekend has motivated her to do more. A donation page is still open for that purpose.
"These people are doing it so hard and we are all focused on buying toilet paper," she said.