DROUGHT has struck at the heart of many farming communities and families throughout western NSW, and Port Macquarie parish priest Fr Paul Gooley decided to do something about it.
Fr Gooley launched the Bale Out appeal in early July and it was embraced enthusiastically by the parish and the Port Macquarie community.
It has spread throughout the Lismore diocese with nearly $40,000 raised so far.
Fr Gooley said the appeal started with a special collection at St Agnes’ parish Masses on the weekend of 14-15 July.
With the success there, it moved to the parish’s schools and to the Catholic Care for the Aged facilities with special fundraising events.
After that it spread to other parishes across Lismore.
“This appeal has been taken on with such positivity and open-heartedness that it is easy to see Christ alive in our community today,” Fr Gooley said.
“Locally, we have raised around $20,000 although this figure may rise, as funds are still coming in from donations and fundraising events.
“For example, the residents and staff at our Catholic Care of Aged facilities – Emmaus, St Agnes’ Hostel, and Maryknoll – held morning tea in late July and early August and have raised over $1400 for the appeal.
“Our secondary schools – MacKillop College, St Joseph’s Regional College, and Newman Senior Technical College – raised funds through out-of-uniform days and sausage sizzles, so it has been a real team effort.
“It is heart-warming to see how generously people are giving to help others in need.”
Fr Gooley said 100 per cent of the funds raised would go towards feed for stock and for food and other items for farming families affected by the drought.
In consultation with Lismore Bishop Greg Homeming, Fr Gooley has been in conversations with drought-affected parishes out west, including parishes within the Bathurst, Armidale, and Wilcannia-Forbes dioceses, to work out the best way to get help to those who need it most.
“Some of the funds will be distributed this week to buy hay, grain and water for stock through programs such as Buy a Bale and the Rapid Relief Team, who are trucking feed in from Western Australia and Tasmania,” he said.
“We are also working to have food vouchers made available to farming families in need through supermarkets in drought-affected areas to help boost their local business communities.
“The shortage of water is not only affecting the stock but also the ability of families on the land to do something as simple as having a shower.
“As a result, we are also sending some of the funds to a pastoral care program in the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese, which supports farmers by enabling them to stay in town at a motel for the night to have showers and wash clothes.”