Bev Hannam and Don McCall from the Caves lions club.
Bev Hannam and Don McCall from the Caves lions club.

Lions step up to help farmers

THE CAVES and District Lions Club knew something needed to be done to support those in western Queensland suffering an under the burden of and extended drought, so members took action.

Now, three years on, and their drought support programs are stronger than ever.
When the club first started the program, Bev Hannan, Barry Hannan and Don McCall were the driving force behind the initiative.

Their first plan of action back in 2013 was to place wheelie bins around major shopping facilities where people could donate goods to affected families in the western region.

The response for those who wanted to donate was so overwhelming, Bev, Barry and Don found there was a "fair bit involved in distribution of actual donated goods".

So from then on Don said it was decided to use a voucher system that affected families could use at their local grocery or butcher.

"This had several key benefits - those people being supported could spend in their own community, thereby supported their wider community, buy what was appropriate for them, and the distribution of assistance was much easier," Don said.

"The assistance provided since then has been in terms of a voucher with a monetary value, which could be used for food stuffs or be paid off at their local store account if necessary.

"Local agents such as stock and station, School of the Air and others have been able to assist in identifying persons who could benefit from the scheme, which has worked well."

Don said in being able to provide basic support, they had been actively supported by local store owners, who allowed them to place collection containers for food items and donations from the public on their premises.

"Generous donations also came from Oak Tree Retirement Village, Mercy Aged Care, Bunnings, J B Distributors and Silvia Heights, which enabled us to send 40 gift parcels to remote properties in the Barcoo and Boulia shires, as well as funding of 110 Christmas in July vouchers redeemable at nine independent local stores across five towns in those affected areas," Don said.

"The Tewantin Noosa Lions Club collected enough products from their local pharmacies to pack 130 personal packs for women and children and 15 packs for men, which were distributed with the assistance of the Winton Lions Club members."

Since establishing the voucher system, monetary support has continued to flow, with more than $100,000 in cash donations from individuals and other clubs and associations being channelled directly to those who need it on the ground.

"We often receive a letter via email or through the post thanking and affirming their appreciation for the assistance received," Don said.

"A very common theme is big thanks for caring! People are helped in knowing that they are not suffering alone in a vacuum, but that their wider community way over here in coastal areas are with them in their struggles to survive the vagaries of our climate and its effect on their lives and livelihoods."