Jaclyn Bold may live in Sydney, but she's determined to help New England families struggling with the drought.
A conversation with a cousin in Guyra one midnight inspired her to set up Drought Aid, a relief campaign that will have delivered nearly 7000 kg of food, water, and other supplies to the region by next week.
Her farmer cousin sent her a picture of a friend's property taken that afternoon. The cousin was concerned: the bushfire was 25 m away from the back door; between the back door and the fire were a dozen sheep that looked like wool hanging off a metal washboard.
"Down here in Sydney, we're not getting this information," Jaclyn said. "Nobody knows just how bad it is. I made it my goal to change that."
The Drought Aid campaign aims to raise money and collect donations of water, non-perishable food, and other supplies for drought-affected people between Uralla and Glen Innes, and encourage caravanners and travellers to visit the towns to help their economies. (In her day job, Jaclyn repairs caravans and trailers.)
Drought Aid has raised $6883 so far. Some of the money goes to buy gift cards from local supermarkets, hairdressers, pharmacies, and butchers - helping families and keeping shops open.
The Rotary Club of Armidale received $2000 for their Rotary Australia Compassionate Grant, providing immediate support to victims of the Bees Nest Fires; the Dick Smith Foundation matched this amount dollar for dollar.
The campaign has collected and delivered 3975 kg of donations, which the CWA distribute around the region; Jaclyn will deliver another 2700 kg (eight pallets) to Armidale in the next few days.
So far, 108 households have received food hampers. Drought Aid has also delivered 24 ladies' packs; provided books and stationery to 12 schools; and sent baby and infant food, nappies, and clothing to Baby and Mothers' Groups.
Items are donated to points across Sydney, Gosford, and Port Stevens. Jaclyn and her family sort and pack the items at the Bold Trailer and Caravan Repair Centre, Caringbah.
"We're very much a passion project," Jaclyn said. "A lot of this is done at midnight after I've worked full-time six days a week, with three kids! If you want something done, you just ask a busy person!"
The donations are then taken by air (Skymed Aeromedical and Edwards Aviation's air ambulance) and road (Doble Express Transport's trucks and road freight to Armidale.
CWA members such as Leonie Hawkins from Guyra and Lorraine Sewell from Kelly's Plains turn the donations into hampers; their children fill feed bags with donated food.
"In 48 hours, those amazing women have got food in families' hands!" Jaclyn said. "These families don't have money to go to the supermarket; they need all the help they can get. A hamper aims to lift their spirits: people in Sydney are thinking of you, and want to help."
When the CWA bring the hampers to families, they also take information about other assistance the families can get, suicide prevention, and mental health strategies.
"Sometimes it's the only conversation the property owners have had in a while, because some of them are too scared to leave their properties for fear of fire, or they're too embarrassed because things aren't so good on the land."
Jaclyn has also encouraged her customers to stay in new England and spend tourist dollars. Five clients have already changed their travel plans to stay between Uralla and Glen Innes.
"If you're heading up the New England Highway from Sydney to Queensland," Jaclyn tells them, "don't just take the coast road up by Coffs. Take a detour in, and check out these amazing towns. Have lunch in Uralla, stop in Armidale, swing past Guyra, and explore what's around."
Drought Aid has more than 1500 gifts for Tarsha Baker's Santa Run. Jaclyn will bring three pallets this week, with more to follow next week.
The Food Pantry at the Uralla Neighbourhood Centre is extremely short on food; Jaclyn is collecting for that too. Three years ago, she said, the Pantry helped 28 families; now it has 180 on its books.
Many, Jaclyn said, have slipped through the cracks; they don't qualify for government assistance because they're not livestock producers, they bought their farms just before the drought hit, or they run other rural businesses.
Every person involved with Drought Aid is a volunteer, and everything is donated, Jaclyn said.
"No one makes a cent from any of this. All the food's donated; the toys are donated; the travel time; the CWA members pay for petrol out of their own pocket, and take time out of their own day.
"It's beautiful. We've just extended the community from south of Sydney to Glen Innes!"
Drought Aid - Armidale, Guyra, Glen Innes & Nearby Towns Campaign is created and co-ordinated by Jaclyn Bold and the BOLD Trailer and Caravan Repair Centre, Sydney. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/droughtaid/.