There’s a strange but beautiful overlapping of events in Batlow right now, as bushfire relief money is starting to be distributed even as COVID-19 closures blanket the town and drive people indoors.
Tina Billing is navigating her way through the overlap, finding ways to continue getting money and gifts out into the community while maintaining proper social distancing.
So far, $11,000 in $1,000 individual grants have been given out by the CWA via cheques sent in the mail. A second round of applications has been open for several weeks and will close in a few days, at the end of the month. A third round will open quickly. The Batlow CWA has already received close to $50,000 so far from several sources, and more keeps coming in. Tina said the figure was “mind shattering.”
“[The grants went to] people that have been totally wiped out,” said Tina. “Burned out in their homes.
“Then there were a couple of very small businesses that have been really, really affected. We were able to help them as well. Whether people were fully insured or under insured or not insured, it doesn’t matter really. They still need the money.”
It’s still not clear how much money the CWA will distribute, since large and small amounts continue to be donated.
“Every week, there’s some little extra surprise,” she said.
Tina said they’ll keep running fresh rounds of applications until the money is completely gone, with each round open for two to three weeks.
“If we need to re-look at [past applications], there might be a second chance for people, too,” said Tina, ensuring that 100% of the money which comes into the Batlow CWA will go out into the Batlow community.
The CWA’s main complication at the moment is with finding a safe location where people can drop off application forms, since the library and Bushfire Assistance point have been closed. They’ll also have to find a new way for their committee to review the applications, since they can’t meet face to face.
“It might be just a Post Office thing,” said Tina on Wednesday. She also needs to find a way to distribute five large handmade quilts and 50 crocheted rugs which came in this week. The CWA will start by contacting people they know were hit hard, but the pick ups and drops offs will have to be done quickly – and at a distance – to ensure they’re complying with COVID-19 social distancing recommendations.
The CWA is typically very hands-on in their approach to helping the community through various disasters. Tina said it’s been difficult for their members to help with coronavirus by staying at home, largely alone, even as the donations continue to come and out.
“It is [a contrast],” she said.
“We’ve got members feeling frustrated that they’re not out there helping the community and we had a little meeting last week before we had to close up and I told them, ‘Look, we are [helping]. We don’t have to cook for everything. We don’t have to be cooking all the time to prove our worth!’”
For now, the CWA will help Batlow through COVID-19 remotely, stewarding “a really big, healthy bank account” and sharing it as quickly as possible with those who need it. The monies are being sent out by cheque, to ensure there’s no physical contact taking place.
The distancing gets a little more difficult when it comes to distributing blankets or the roughly 50 craft kits which are still at the CWA rooms. Tina said the kits, donated by The Crafty Frog in Canberra, are just about gone.
“There’s still some bits and pieces, but we started out with 6 or 7 full size tables absolutely packed and now we’re down to about 1 and a half tables. It would be probably 50ish [individual kits].
“Honestly, there were hundreds when we started. It’s wonderful to think that people have been able to take advantage of that.”
Anyone wanting to pick up a kit or a blanket can contact Tina on 0412 831 419 and arrange a time to meet at the CWA rooms. There are plenty of cross stitch kits and knitting kits still available, with several scrapbooking sets and other miscellaneous projects.
The rugs and quilts came from groups in Temora and Singleton and Tina said she had to “rendezvous in the middle of the street” to collect them, trying to “grab them and keep our distance.” She’s hoping to allow families to choose from the rugs just in time for the cold change which has been moving into Batlow this week.