The Deepwater fires forced Barb’s family to flee their home in Central Queensland, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They went to an evacuation centre at Miriam Vale, where they stayed for days.
But Barb’s twin granddaughters had a pressing question on their minds.
What were they going to wear to their Year 10 formal?
Their grandmother Barb mentioned the problem to Red Cross volunteer Joy at the Miriam Vale evacuation centre, and by the end of the day, they had pulled together fresh outfits the girls were happy with.
Barb and Joy started with the donations which had poured into the centre, and were able to find brand new handbags, cosmetics, towels and shoes. They even found some perfume they girls loved.
Next stop was the Op Shop up the road for new evening dresses.
Barb says the most touching of all was a hand-written note in the bags of cosmetics the girls received. With many people having left their homes for an indefinite period, an unknown person had collected toiletries and cosmetics, put them into beautiful bags and left them at the centre for people who might need them.
“In those bags there was a gorgeous note that someone had personally written which brought tears to my eyes. It was so beautiful. It was such a caring type of thing,” she says.
And by all report, the twins had a great night.
“They had a lovely night thanks to the Red Cross. Without them it wouldn’t have happened as well as it did,” Barb says.
Barb says as well as help for her twin granddaughters, she herself has found great support form Red Cross volunteers at the centre. She’s sleeping in a van in a friend’s paddock and has enjoyed dropping into the centre.
“I’ve had emotional support, but also toiletries, sheets, pillow cases, pillows, towels, meals.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed because there’s people out there who really care. It’s time like these that communities pull together but Red Cross helped that community pull together even more in that support.
“I do have a lot more strength now and I have a lot to give too so after it’s all finished I think I might have to do some volunteer work myself.”
For Joy, it’s been mutually beneficial, having formed a brief friendship with Barb and her daughter.
“It’s very rewarding. It’s worth the effort to get up at 4am when you’re called up for a deployment. You pack so fast and try to arrange things so fast. I had to run around and water my 100 pot plants in the dark before I left and so on so it’s good to know that the effort’s appreciated and you’ve done things to help.”
Barb agrees it’s not all bad, saying a crisis can bring out surprising benefits.
“It’s times like this that do bring people together, to bring more love into the world.”