Generous Merriwa community says thank you to its NSW Rural Fire Service personnel

Quick 'response' boosts local brigades' coffers

MERRIWA'S historic Brindley Park Woolshed was the recent scene of a grateful town thanking its dedicated and selfless NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) volunteers who fought the blaze that raged in the Goulburn River National Park last year.

"It all started when the local (RFS) approached us to feed them," Merriwa RSL chef Tye King said.

"Seeing them work 18 hours per day made me want to give something back."

Merriwa RSL secretary/manager Matt Morgan modestly added: "Tye approached me and was the main organiser.

"He got it up and running."

"We approached all the local businesses who donated raffle prizes worth more than $3000," Mr King continued.

"We organised a Bushfire Relief Fundraiser at the club recently, too.

"The club donated $1 for every schooner of beer and $5 for every steak and chicken schnitzel sold, that was supplemented from our food suppliers, PDF Foodservices and Bidfood."

Mr Morgan said the response was "fairly quick".

"We organised it over five days," he explained.

"We wanted to raise the funds and give the money directly to our local brigades, so we could avoid the bureaucracy."

Merriwa farmer Mike Gilder is Group Captain of Liverpool Range - Group One (an area covering approximately 3800 square kilometres) and he was delighted to receive the cheque on behalf of the constituent RFS brigades - Bunnan, Gummun, Merriwa River, Worondi, Killoe, Bow, Idaville, Settlement, Collaroy and Cassilis.

"This donation of $3907.50 is going to those brigades and their volunteers," he said.

Merriwa RFS volunteer Brendan Waters is a husband and father of two young children.

He's been a volunteer for five years.

"The RFS is about helping people," he said.

"I had to visit a lot of older people around the Poggy Bushfire who had no computer access and didn't know what was going on.

"They were really scared and we had to explain what was happening.

"That experience has helped me develop my communications skills."

Merriwa River Brigade Deputy Captain Laurel Whitby is a local mother of 11 - and has four of her offspring involved with her.

She's been a volunteer for seven years and explained with humility: "I've only got the seven at home now, so I thought it was time to give back to the community.

"I go to all the call outs and my hubby James is great and steps up as mum and dad when I have to go."

Mrs Whitby's 18-year old daughter Sarah agreed.

"Mum encouraged me to join and I've been in the RFS for four years," she said.

Younger brother Nick has "always wanted to be a firefighter" and, like his sister, joined as a cadet and is now a junior RFS volunteer.

Not all volunteers are RFS members.

Some are de-facto volunteers as they support their spouses who confront the fires.

Deanna Hollis is the Scone Grammar School (SGS) head of secondary whose husband Brian is an RFS volunteer.

"I wanted to help," she said.

"So, I approached the SGS Student Representative Council and asked for a contribution from their funds they work so hard to help raise.

"They were only too happy to oblige, with the school donating food to the thank you party as well."

For those wishing to join their local RFS community, check out the RFS web page

It was a great night - and a great community event, with Brendan Waters saying: "I'll stay on with the RFS - they're a good bunch of people and I'd love my kids to join."

Thank you to all the donors: Happy Guru, Elders Merriwa, Royal Hotel Merriwa, Sansko Café & Restaurant, Merriwa Pharmacy, The Hut, Sarah Bidner's Hair Boutique, B&B On Bettington, Bidfood, Merriwa Bakery, Brody's Hair Salon, Regional Australia Bank, PFD Foodservices, Merriwa Newsagency, Merriwa Hardware, Russell's Earthmoving, CRT Merriwa, Welderup, Merriwa Tyre and Service Centre, Di's Clothing Patch, Merriwa Rugby League Football Club, Merriwa Post Office, R M Property & Livestock, LSA - Merriwa Pool, Hair Indeed and IGA Merriwa.