Helidon Community Centre

I drove alone, at a reduced speed, flood damaged roads threatened to slash my tyres.  Thoughts of what the day would bring at the forefront of my mind. The community centre at Helidon was my destination; a morning tea was on at 10am for one and all, a focal point for community recovery since the flood had gone.

So much has happened to the state of Queensland in the last month or so. Flood waters have enveloped so many towns and moved from one to the next, an inland tsunami hit Toowoomba and tiny towns in the Lockyer Valley sweeping away all before it including many loved ones. Even Brisbane was flooded despite beliefs that “since Wivenhoe, there will never be another flood as bad as 1974”. Yet out of such tragedy, disaster and hardship, a new community spirit has risen and given hope to all.

Baked Relief cupcakes courtesy Vanilla Pod

Cup cakes, slices, biscuits, water, real coffee, all is on at the Helidon Community Centre this Monday morning. Baked Relief has arrived; locals can enjoy a cuppa courtesy of Scott from Vanilla Pod, a few tasty homemade treats and share stories. An initiative of Danielle Crismani aka ‘digellabakes’ in the twitter world, #bakedrelief fast became an army of home bakers and cooks making delicious treats for those in need. Call outs on social media like twitter spread the word quickly, food is delivered to drop off points like Treasurer Wayne Swan’s electoral office before being delivered to locals, volunteers and emergency services workers cleaning up the flood mess. Smiles as people tuck into a snag, a brownie or cup cake showed the appreciation; no words are needed.

Donations to those needing flood assistance from Treasurer Wayne Swan

So many families have lost everything in this flood. In Grantham, locals were lucky to escape with their lives when many did not. Compared to other towns, there was precious little time to move valued possessions to higher ground, it happened so quickly. Grantham folk have the clothes on their back and an id bracelet on their wrist.

Danielle Crismmani delivering Baked relief at Helidon Community Centre

Sunny Mummy has joined Baked Relief in Helidon for the morning tea. Cellophane hampers of products just for mums have been generously donated and are being distributed. Stacey from Sunnny Mummy asks “Are you a mum?” A nod and a Sunny Mummy pack is yours.

Stacey from Sunny Mummy chatting with locals at Baked relief morning tea at Helidon Community Centre

Vanilla Pod donated delicious coffees to locals at the Baked relief morning tea at Helidon Community Centre

Preparing for the Baked relief morning tea at Helidon Community Centre

As locals arrived, questions were asked “What do you need now, how can we help? Details were taken, notes made. Danielle iphone and laptop in hand began organizing, talking to suppliers and corporates.

Everyone loves a cupcake at the Baked relief morning tea at Helidon Community Centre

Sharing stories of survival at the Baked relief morning tea at Helidon Community Centre

I found chatting with families who have lost everything including loved ones so humbling. Their faces can still manage a smile, they are simply happy to be alive, it puts things in perspective; some of my worries seem so trivial now. The community spirit on display is just awesome. A retired couple, “grey nomads” by their own admission passing through join the discussions. They have a house full of possessions in storage and want to donate it all to a family in need.

Danielle Crismani, founder of Baked relief with iphone, laptop, essential communication tools in the field

Loading Sunny Mummy packs and Baked Relief for delivery to Grantham

Grantham resident John shares his family's survival story in his home

John, a Grantham local told me his family’s story of survival.  Their harrowing experience swimming out of their home and the fight to climb onto their roof as the inland tsunami engulfed their home is terrifying. Thankfully, this happened during the day, if it happened at night time, many more lives would have been lost. We joined John and his family in his home, now a shell with beams exposed, cleanup crews have removed the mud inside, possessions and all the walls. John takes me around his property detailing how the waters hit; we stood at the pool fence which the family used to clamber onto the roof.

Grantham resident John shows the dingy used to keep children afloat as they climbed on the roof

Flood damaged car, Grantham

Today, Grantham, is a hive of activity. Trucks, excavators, bobcats, police, army, emergency service personnel, road gangers, volunteers, community services, locals helping each other; so much is going on to help Grantham recover and rebuild. Donations to assist Grantham rebuild can be made here. You can help make a difference.

Flood cleanup underway in Grantham

Danielle and Stacey delivering Sunny Mummy packs to Grantham

Danielle and Stacey deliver Baked Relief and Sunny Mummy packs to designated drop off areas, this mission is accomplished yet there is so much more to do. Back to the car, time to go, things to organize. Chats with locals have revealed it is the basics that are needed, things like chopping boards, knives, tea towels, cutlery, plates, and basic provisions like coffee, tea, long life milk, even vegemite. Danielle is onto it; Baked Relief is now evolving from delivering cupcakes and slices to essential items needed. Danielle’s goal is to source and deliver 50 “Essentials Boxes” to those in need in the next couple of days.

Sharing stories of survival, Grantham

It is important that life returns to normal as quickly as possible. Schools go back this week; businesses flood affected or not need to start trading again, Businesses need their customers to come back if they are to survive. People need to focus on normal activities and resume their lives. For some, life may never be normal. Those communities and families that have lost so much will need our support and love in the months and years ahead as they rebuild both physically and emotionally. Their needs must not be forgotten, relief efforts will change from basic necessities of life to more advanced infrastructure, we must show that we care and are with them on their journey.

Thank you message, Grantham

Help can be in so many forms, no matter how big or small. We can all make a difference. I have gifted to two families a $1,000 Reyment Photographics family portrait and prints package. When their rebuild is compete, I will travel to Grantham and photograph these families and give them prints to hang proudly on their new walls.

Initiatives like Baked Relief illustrate how individuals can make a difference. One can become many and hope can be delivered. Perhaps historians will look back on the floods in Australia in 2010/2011 as the moment when a community’s spirit was captured and shaped to become more caring, inclusive and courageous.

As we celebrate Australia Day today, let’s celebrate our community spirit and the gift of helping those in need.