What started out as a modest delivery of homemade jam drops turned into a cash donation for six Manning region NSW Rural Fire Service brigades.
Taree's Kailah Lythgoe thinks it's important to do her bit for the community, so after the NSW RFS saved a few of her friends' houses from fire in late October, she decided to bake some jam drops and deliver them to the Taree RFS station as a thank you.
When she arrived, there was a crew from the Hawsbury RFS that were just finishing up a 13 hour shift.
"They hadn't had a break and they were hungry," Kailah said. "They were so appreciative, I thought, wow, how can I help them?"
So, she put a call out on Facebook and reached out to her business network, asking for people to make donations of goods or money, and the response was overwhelming.
Before long, she was packing up her car boot and making delivers to RFS stations. She decided it was important to head out to the smaller brigades that weren't being reached by other donations.
But it wasn't just RFS stations she travelled to, she also made stops at evacuation centres and the airport to make sure the pilots got their bit as well.
During her stop at the Killabakh station in November, she had a chat with deputy captain, Greg Hale who mentioned that what the brigade really needed was a winch to help make winding up the hose out of gullies easier.
When she posted the story on her Facebook page, it drew the attention of her boss, who forwarded the information onto head office.
Kailah was then flown to the Localsearch headquarters, where a donation of $6000 toward her $5ER For A Firey campaign was announced. The company also donated $6000 toward Kailah's drought relief cause from December 2018, Aussie Helpers.
"Work donating the money really blew me away," Kailah said.
On Christmas Eve, Kailah brought together representatives from six Mid Coast RFS brigades, Coopernook, Lansdowne, Moorland, Kundle/Moto, Killabakh and Hollisdale (Pappinbarra) and between them donated the $6000 plus the $1500 she had raised funds.
Localsearch had chosen the Killabakh RFS as the major recipient to help the crew purchase the winch without having to raise the funds.
RFS brigades needing to raise funds for equipment and supplies has been a big topic of discussion within communities across the State in the wake of one of the worst starts to the fire season, with parts of NSW having been under threat since August.
With teams that fight fires on the ground made up solely of volunteers, crews have been spread thin and are exhausted; yet, on Boxing Day, RFS members were set up at the petrol station on the Pacific Highway at Nabiac with a white bucket trying to raise funds to help their brigade.
It's the selfless actions of these devoted volunteers that poses the question, why doesn't government funding provide enough for this vital service to function?
In the case of the Rainbow Flat brigade, which lost its station during the Hillville fire, it needs to raise the funds to rebuild.
With the issue of funding currently being highlighted in national media, community incentives like Kailah's are even more important, as it takes the fundraising load off our overworked volunteer firies.
Kailah started the fundraising as a way to help her community, in the same way she raised funds for drought affected farmers a year ago. She had been working in Tamworth and noticed how stress-affected the community was and when she returned home, she got to stuck into helping out, raising $5000 in goods for Aussie Helpers.
With this current campaign, she hopes the giving will continue with no plans at this stage to stop. Instead she looking for ways to encourage people to keep giving.
"If every person whose house was saved donated a couple of dollars, how much money would that raise?" she suggested.
In addition to this, Kailah has worked alongside BlazeAid with Brazilian community members to repair fences and also arranged a $1500 donation of Flamazine cream to Koalas In Care in Taree. Collectively, the campaign has assisted in raising and distributing approximately $15,000 of goods and funds raised since it started.
For information on how to make a donation, contact Kailah via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.