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Community stands united in the face of disaster

Community stands united in the face of disaster

Community stands united in the face of disaster

6 April 2017

The Salvation Army team at the Beenleigh Recovery Centre (from left): Eryn Wangman, Nick Gentry, Daniel Blake and Major Heather McKeown.

By Lauren Martin

When Salvation Army soldier Nick Gentry left his house to volunteer at the local evacuation centre at Beenleigh, south of Brisbane, there was a steady stream of floodwater running from his own back door, through to the front.

He had tried desperately to sandbag, but when the call to help others had come, he made sure his pets were safe, locked the door and didn’t look back.

“I’m really not concerned about material things,” Nick says. “All I’m concerned about, like every good [Salvation Army] soldier is, is to assist my community.”

Stories like Nick’s are emerging from the frontline of The Salvation Army’s response to Cyclone Debbie and its devastating aftermath of floods and destruction from North Queensland to Northern NSW.
Lieutenant Wes Bust, Corps Officer at Ballina in Northern NSW, who has been assisting in the Lismore flood zone, says he has many stories of selfless act of kindness in the midst of hardship and loss.

“A number of people have turned up wanting to offer their house for people to stay, with food and baked cakes to give away and non-perishable food items,” he says. “And there was a little kid that came in at Lismore on Friday with his favourite Paw Patrol gumboots to give them to a little kid who had nothing. The generosity of the community has been overwhelming.”

As floodwaters rose at Bundamba, west of Brisbane, volunteers had to work quickly to sandbag the local corps. Yet, despite that urgency, volunteers also delivered sandbags to people living in low-lying areas who couldn’t get access to them.

“We’ve done this kind of thing before. There’s a lot of experience in this area that we draw from. Everyone pitched in to help,” said Bundamba Corps Officer, Captain Emma Johnson.

Lieutenant Chris Ford, from Gladstone Corps, has been in the cyclone-affected towns of Bowen and Proserpine. He says the local Woolworths manager in Mackay has gone out of his way to help.

“We placed a large but late order and Scott [the store manager] went to the store straight away to get our order ready, finishing at about midnight. He then rang the bakers at 3am to make sure they had our bread order. When I went into the store the next morning, he was counselling staff and customers, even offering to pay for a taxi for a customer as she had limited access to a car ... a true Australian legend!”

At Slacks Creek, south of Brisbane, where The Salvation Army’s Life Community Church was flooded, Salvationists, friends and strangers turned up to help in the sandbagging effort to protect the building from floodwaters. After the building flooded, people returned to help with the clean-up.

“The community has been great as well as the community leaders, says Captain Bronwyn Barkmeyer, Life Community Church Corps Officer. “We had a number just turn up (including students from the neighbouring high school) and help us with sandbagging. Someone dropped off a couple if slabs of water for the workers. They stayed right up until the end, carrying buckets as we tried to pump water out and just being there to help wherever they could,” says Captain Barkmeyer.

“We were also thankful to have Cameron Dick, our State member for Woodridge, spend quite a bit of time working alongside us, sweeping out the water,” she posted on the Salvation Army Life Community Church Facebook page.

Back at Beenleigh, Nick Gentry is well into his eighth day of emergency assistance and relief. He says he’s been overwhelmed by the way the community has rallied around those who have lost so much.

“This one lady said ‘I woke up and there was two-foot of water around me’. A gentleman said he was asleep, it was 1 o’clock in the morning and he said he woke up and there was a tree on his caravan,” says Nick. “A local company purchased tents for us and some sleeping bags and for the people that were desperate enough to need a decent sleep they went to a high, dry community caravan park and they pitched their tents there.”

Local companies have supplied everything from brand-new bedding, to toiletries and food supplies.

“I’m overwhelmed by the generosity and the humility of folks,” Nick says. “People are quite literally opening their hearts to help us.”

Read other stories about the work of The Salvation Army during cyclone debbie and the floods across Queensland in Northern New South Wales at


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