MUSWELLBROOK Lions Club, along with other Lions in the Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter shires, has made a huge contribution to help farmers through the current drought.
The organisation was involved with the first Lions Hay Run into the Muswellbrook area mid-2018.
A combined hay and grocery drop-off into both shires followed on July 28-29.
Muswellbrook Lions joined with other Lions to put together grocery packs at the Merriwa Showground.
“It was a great sight to see so many trucks coming into the area loaded with hay,” local member Mark Elsley said.
Soon after, Muswellbrook Lions was asked to establish a Lions District Disaster Relief Centre in Muswellbrook.
After searching for a suitable site, a building was made available to the members to use, free of charge by Muswellbrook Shire Council.
“It was a case of ‘all hands on deck’ to fit out the premises with shelving and an office from where the grocery packs could be made up and distributed,” Mr Elsley said.
“Within a very short space of time the shelves started to fill and grocery packs were being put together.
“Lions members from various clubs within the district helped put the packs together and distribute them to where the need was the greatest based on information being received.”
A big boost to the efforts of Muswellbrook Lions came from the Muswellbrook Men’s Shed with a generous donation of $15,000 from their recycling project.
That gesture was very much appreciated.
In September, a ‘For the Farmers’ concert took place at the Muswellbrook RSL Club, which was organised by Daryl and Karen Eagan (Muswellbrook RSL) and Len Kelman (Carolen Transport) and Craig Tate.
“The event was a great success, due mainly by Len being able to book John Paul Young as the star performer,” Mr Elsley said.
“Muswellbrook Lions assisted on the night with the raffle and auction and were also the main beneficiaries of the fundraiser.
“Approximately $42,000 was raised, which would be used to help the farmers of the Upper Hunter (mainly Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter shires) with bales of hay, groceries and vouchers for other essential items the farmers need.
“The distribution of food and associated care packs also ramped up the closer Christmas approached.
“So much so, the Lions Disaster Relief Centre distributed in the order of $150,000 worth of non-perishable food throughout the Upper Hunter up to Christmas Day.”
In October, Muswellbrook Lions started buying hay from Hunter farmers and, through Mr Kelman and his son’s generous donation of the use of their semi-trailer, more distribution began.
“We purchased in the order of 370 large round bales as part of the Disaster Relief program for the farmers in the Upper Hunter,” president Lorraine Manuel said.
“Deliveries have been made throughout the Upper Hunter, out as far as the Merriwa area.
“Muswellbrook Lions has also covered fuel costs involved in the distribution of the hay as well.
“The Lions Club would not have been able to achieve so much had it not been for Len Kelman coming on board.”
Water was the next thing on the agenda as there had not been any inflow into house tanks for quite some time and farmers were out of drinking water.
Through contacts Mr Kelman had, he was able to obtain a milk tanker from SMH Milk Carriers, which made a huge contribution to the delivery of water.
Muswellbrook Shire Council was again there to help out, supplying up to 140,000 litres of drinking water to farming families within the Muswellbrook Shire each week.
Lion Les O’Brien, who has been involved with the water deliveries, stated “families visited were desperate for water and the sight of water being pumped into their tanks brought tears of joy”.
“Muswellbrook council is to be congratulated for its contribution in the drought relief project, for without them much of the work of Lions would have been so much harder,” Mrs Manuel added.
“Lions recognised the need to keep things local and, by doing so, help the local shop keepers, too.
“The grocery packs provided were part of emergency assistance to the farmers.
“Initially, Muswellbrook Lions also obtained some gift cards from large retail chains and distributed them.
“This way some perishable items could be purchased.
“Both Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter shires assisted in the drought relief effort to keep things local through the promotion of a purchasing card.
“The We Live HERE gift card was a way of shop owners, who had signed up for the promotion, could then accept these debit cards.
“Muswellbrook Lions purchased quite a number of these cards and loaded them with funds from the For the Farmers fundraiser.
“These cards were distributed to a number of farming families prior to Christmas as well.”
The Drought Relief project by Muswellbrook Lions has been a huge effort for what is now a small club, as many of the older members are relocating due to retirement.
Manpower’s been stretched, especially when there have been a number of ongoing fund-raising projects as well.
Muswellbrook Lions, which formed in 1956, needs new members now, so that their support of local people and projects can continue.
Muswellbrook Lions is desperate for community-minded men and women with a desire to help others and who want to help shape their local community.
For more information, contact Brent on 0437 906 100 or Lynda on 0449 057 780.
An information day including a free sausage sizzle has been organised for Sunday, March 10, at Simpson Park starting at 11.30am.
Come along and talk to Lions about membership and what you can do for your community.