Community opens hearts and homes for storm victims

Derek and Matt serving the community warm meals at Kalorama Community Triage. Pictures: SUPPLIED.

Yarra Ranges residents have been overwhelmed by an outpouring of support from the community after devastating storms raged throughout the shire.

Waking to the destruction of homes, cars and livelihoods, the community banded together to bring warmth, food and a place to stay to strangers and neighbours without power and hot water.

Social media notice boards and community pages lit up with offers for people without a liveable house to take refuge.

Cafes, churches and businesses opened up their doors for people to stay warm, charge their phones and eat comfort food.

With police guarding roads to limit cars driving up the mountain for safety and security, Lilydale SES has started accepting donations of non-perishable food items, toiletries, sanitary items and other essentials.

Items are being collected at the Montrose playground carpark between 11am and 4pm Tuesday 15 June to then be donated to the Kalorama Community Triage, a community relief centre set up by volunteers.

Lilydale SES has also donated a generator for lighting so that people can continue to be helped at Kalorama oval.

Kalorama Community Triage volunteer and organiser Jordan Scotney has been helping supply many people in Kalorama with meals and other support services since Sunday morning 13 June.

Although escaping from the hills to his parents house during the thick of the storm, being a Kalista local, Mr Scotney said he had to help the community in any way possible.

Calling business after business, organisers were able to get support from Bayswater Bunnings who supplied a barbeque and utensils, Nikos Tavern, Mooroolbark Coles and Kilsyth Woolworths who donated food and supplies.

With the help of his dad, Mr Scotney cooked up pots of winter warming stew to start them off before more food arrived.

Eight to ten volunteers helped set up the triage, with marquees, a qualified nurse on site and in ground fires, while four went knocking on people’s doors to make sure they were OK.

Everyone had a story, whether they had severe damage or just an extremely frightful night, Mr Scotney said people were just happy to be listened to.

“There were many touching moments and people were so glad to know people were there for them,” Mr Scotney said.

“[It was about] having a space where people can share stories. People need to know people care about them.”

Locals and SES members alike were grateful for the support of their community and a much needed free feed.

“There’s been lots of community support for people. People helping out neighbours. The CFA brigades coming out and just checking on people,” Lilydale SES unit controller Shaun Caulfield said.

“They were just literally going around checking every house and making sure people were OK and that’s fantastic because that’s their community, they have a lot of members living in those houses as well.”

Montrose CFA captain Rob Waters said the small gestures of offering someone a shower or letting someone share a generator was all part of the community spirit and resilience.

“We’ve seen very generous offers from the community, some beautiful messages that we’ve had on our Facebook and social media pages and also private messages, emails,” he said.

“We live in an absolutely astounding community and not only in bushfire season when people care but major events when someone is challenged, our community just gets up and rallies around and looks after our neighbours.”

Mr Waters said those small acts of kindness are the best way for the community to recover.

“We actually had two young girls come up to the fire brigade with their parents yesterday (13 June) and drop off some morning tea to us and they saved up their pocket money and wanted to give back and I think that’s just absolutely beautiful and just very special.”

Mr Caulfield said Lilydale SES has seen similar offerings of support and said at the end of the day it is all the little things that add up.

“We’ve had people offer us catering and many individuals offering to come down and supply meals and bags of groceries and snacks and muesli bars.”

Trying to do their part as well in supporting locals, Mr Caufield said the SES members were stunned by the generosity of a stranger at their local cafe in Lilydale.

“We were there picking up some food and a customer behind us just handed over $100 and said ‘just take that off the bill’, just a random person,” Mr Caulfield said.

But one of the biggest supports to Lilydale SES was units from Northcote and Whitehorse taking over the station for 24 hours on Monday 14 June.

“Our crews are tired but they are getting through. We’ve had a lot of support from other rescue units, I think 13 or 14 different units came to assist us as well as CFA and FRV,” Mr Caulfield said.

“Our members can stand down and have a little bit of a rest.”

Mr Caulfield said his crew and so many others will now turn their attention to the recovery effort over the coming days.