Some of the best ideas are hatched over a bottle of wine and that's exactly how Newcastle resident, Anne-Marie Best came up with the idea for the 'We Care' road trip initiative which sees a busload of eager shoppers making the rounds in regional NSW.
The most recent trip to Tenterfield included a breakfast stop in Gloucester on Saturday, March 14 with businesses reaping the rewards. As luck would have it, the two-hour stopover coincided with the monthly farmers markets and the businesses in the CBD made sure to open by 8am.
Gloucester Farmers Market coordinator, Sarah Fulton said it was such a great boost for the community to have a busload of support stop by.
"Seeing the smiles of every person stepping off the coach as they arrived in town on a crisp and foggy Saturday morning was such a wonderful reminder that in the midst of these crazy and surreal times, there's still a lot of kindness and thoughtfulness to be found," Sarah said.
Two Gloucester resident hitched a ride on the tour before the bus departed around 10am for the next stop in Armidale.
According to Sarah, the group offered best wishes to the Gloucester community as it continues to find a way through these tough economic times.
"Above all else, this trip shows the power of human kindness, that struggling rural communities are not forgotten and certainly not by 54 incredibly generous people who found a way to show they care," she said.
The road trips began as an idea at a gathering of friends at Anne-Marie's house with the desire to help those affected by drought. From there it blossomed into putting together a coach full of like-minded people.
"I'm not one to shy away, so I thought, let's see if we can pull this off," Anne-Marie said.
So she contacted coach companies to see if anyone was willing to donate a bus. Pretty soon she had an offer and in September 2018, she had her first trip heading to Coonabarabran. The first trip took a bit of leg work to get sell the seats asking people to donate $100 directly to the Lions Club's Need for Feed campaign to secure a spot.
"I basically knew everyone on board," Anne-Marie said.
The second one again was a bit of a struggle but by the third trip she as able to sell out. This fourth trip sold out in three weeks.
Thanks to Gloucester resident, Hayley Laurie, who reached out to Anne-Marie after reading about her in the Maitland Mercury, Gloucester got added to the list of stopovers.
"Farmers aren't the only ones affected by drought and it's hard to know how to support everyone in the community," Hayley said. "I thought this idea was a good start as it gives people first hand experience in how the drought has affected towns."
Being so close to Newcastle, it hadn't occurred to Anne-Marie that the effects of the drought were so close to home.
"I didn't think it (the drought) had affected Gloucester," Anne-Marie said.