9 April 2024

Acts of kindness shine through amid Illawarra flood devastation

| Kellie O'Brien
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Residents cleaning up Koloona Ave, Figtree.

Residents clean up Koloona Ave, Figtree. Photo: Facebook.

Communities have banded together after the devastation left by the weekend floods, with acts of kindness being displayed throughout the Illawarra, from turning up with shovels to strangers’ homes to offering to feed those in need.

NSW SES Wollongong Unit praised those who rolled up their sleeves to help.

“The Aussie spirit has been great to see across the region, with neighbours and locals pitching in to help one another in their time of need,” it said.

“A big shout-out to all the members of the community who have been pitching in.”

One such person volunteering aid was Michelle Wasson, who has cooked and delivered food to flood victims, all while dealing with her own home being devastated by the floods.

Michelle, a care worker from Figtree, said her downstairs spare room, lounge room, garage and the bedroom of her teenage grandson who has autism, were all destroyed in the floods.

“I’ve got a 15-year-old grandson who lives with me and he’s pretty much lost everything downstairs,” she said.

“It’s gone up into the furniture and got my grandson’s desktop computer.”

She said the flooding, which also took out a retaining wall, was the second she’d experienced in the rental home, which stemmed from being positioned on a hill, rather than from overflowing drains.

However, while Michelle continues to assess the damage to her own property, she’s offered to help cook for others to ensure they’re fed, with three families already responding to her Facebook post.

READ ALSO Insurers put on notice to pay up quickly as Illawarra residents count the cost of devastating floods

“I’ve just dropped a meal off now, so I’m really blessed that I could do that,” she said.

“It’s been playing on my mind about what I’ve had to do, so how hard is it to give someone a meal.

“I gave meals to a lady with three children after I’d cooked up chicken soup and spaghetti yesterday – just some simple meals. Then I got them some ice cream, apple pies and a loaf of bread so they could have a couple of meals at least.

“I’ve gone through hard times in bringing up my family and it was the least I could do for someone in need.”

She said as she drove around Figtree and surrounding suburbs, she was heartened to see those helping to clean up the trail of destruction the floods had left behind.

“You still see so many people out working, so if we can just help out by giving someone a drink on the side of the road, it helps.”

One recipient of help was Thirroul resident Jemima whose new home of only two weeks was badly damaged by the floods, which also destroyed her backyard.

“We just moved into Lachlan Street two weeks ago and last night completely destroyed our backyard and our house flooded about 200 ml throughout,” Jemima said on Facebook.

“I just wanted to say how in all this mess, how grateful I am to be in this community.

“From 6 am onwards strangers were coming round to pitch in and help us wade through the mud and salvage so much of our stuff.”

She said while it was a long road ahead, particularly externally, she wanted to thank “each and every one of you who showed up to someone’s house today to lend a hand”.

She shared photos of what family members, friends but mostly strangers had been able to achieve in a day to clean up the property.

“My heart is so full. Sad but full,” she said.

CuddleCubs Pet Care in Corrimal Street in Wollongong was badly affected with more than 45 cm of water inside the business, but received strong support over the weekend.

“We’ve had people helping with the cleanup to people bringing food and even a similar business in a different area offering assistance,” owner Leah Bullough said.

PCYC Wollongong in North Wollongong was also inundated with messages of support, after it was flooded for the fourth time.

School holiday programs will move to the Bulli and Lake Illawarra PCYCs.

READ ALSO Meet the two Illawarra women building an ‘antidote’ to community division in Bulli

Facebook has an abundance of examples of people willing to help others.

Joshua posted in the Figtree community group that he was a “young strong kid happy to help out with anything”, while Blackbird Thirroul offered coffee.

South Coast External Cleaning offered its neighbours facing the “daunting task of cleaning up their yards and driveways” to reach out and they would help free of charge.

SES NSW has advised anyone returning to their property after the floods to ensure the structural stability of the property before entering, by checking for damage to windows, walls and the roof and be especially cautious of potential contaminants including asbestos.

It advised to also make sure the electricity and gas were turned off before going inside and, if power points and gas appliances were exposed, get them inspected.

Wear suitable protective clothing, and be aware of any slip, trip or fall hazards.

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