This year didn’t get off to a good start for North Queensland with the region being ravaged by floods in February. Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark reflected on the impact that the North Queensland Freemasons had in the immediate aftermath, with Hand Heart Pocket’s support, to help people get back on their feet.
“Thanks to the Freemasons on the ground in Townsville who were able to quickly identify those who needed our support the most, we were able to act quickly and provide those people with a one-off disaster relief grant,” Gary said.
“Twenty-four families were given a hand up, with a total of $48,000 being distributed.”
“People were of course, also receiving on the ground assistance from other support agencies and the government, including emergency payments. We would especially like to thank our members on the ground for keeping us updated on the situation,” he said.
North Queensland Freemason Norm Souter-Smith recalls how the local Masonic community provided practical support during the height of the weather event, as well as during the cleanup and recovery stages.
“It was such a distressing time, but we decided to roll up our sleeves and do what we could to help each other to get through this,” Norm said.
Now, six months on, people are slowly but surely rebuilding their lives. However, by most estimates, it could take a good 12 months or more to fully recover, with 1,500 of the 3,000 homes affected, still not habitable.
“Those that received assistance from Hand Heart Pocket all expressed their gratitude. In the last couple of weeks I have been in contact with eighteen of these recipients. Ten are still not back in their homes, some hope to return before Christmas, others after Christmas.”
“When you enter the houses of those who have returned, most are still not fully finished. The walls are yet to be painted, light fittings yet to be bought, and gardens neglected.”
“The owners talk of furniture ordered, but not yet delivered. You walk around and notice pictures on the walls but no family photographs, new side tables and chiffonieres without little collectables and new fridges without grand-children’s drawings held on by magnets. In fact, not even any magnets.”
“All those little things which make the house a home. Returning to their home is just the start of the recovery,” he said.
Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland provides Disaster Relief assistance to members of the community when a natural disaster has occurred such as a cyclone or flood, giving them a hand up to help them get back on their feet.
Photo: North Queensland Freemason Michael Fry and his wife Jacqui. Michael points out the height to which the water rose.