Jean Vickery and Lions Club of Woolgoolga support drought-affected Guyra

HELPING OUT: Leigh Ramage does her washing at the VRA's new laundromat, while Jean Vickery and Joy O'Shea from the Lions Club of Woolgoolga present a cheque to Jim Betts (Lions Club of Guyra) and Arthur Atkins (Guyra VRA). Photo: Nicholas Fuller
HELPING OUT: Leigh Ramage does her washing at the VRA's new laundromat, while Jean Vickery and Joy O'Shea from the Lions Club of Woolgoolga present a cheque to Jim Betts (Lions Club of Guyra) and Arthur Atkins (Guyra VRA). Photo: Nicholas Fuller

Jean Vickery, from the Lions Club of Woolgoolga, is a woman with a mission: helping country towns in need. Her club has just donated $2000 to help Guyra's drought-affected community.

"We thought that Guyra was very deserving," Ms Vickery said. "I know it's not a big lot ... but the Lions Club was very passionate and honoured to be able to help."

Ms Vickery and her club raised the money for Guyra's Volunteer Rescue Association's laundromat at its shed on Yarrawanda Street.

"We just hope that people can use it, and that it's a bit of an asset to the town," Ms Vickery said.

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Ms Vickery was herself born in Guyra, so, she said, it has a special place in her heart. She drove through the town a fortnight ago, and was horrified by how bad things were. One property she passed was just dirt; there was no stock there. "No one would believe it unless they've been out there."

She decided the Lions Club of Woolgoolga would help. The VRA told her they were setting up the laundromat.

"People in Guyra were travelling all the way to Armidale - which we don't want to happen," Ms Vickery said. "They're likely to do their shopping while waiting for their washing to be done. And that's what we don't want; we want them to shop in Guyra. And the Lions Club of Woolgoolga wants to put money into the town, so it will survive."

Someone offered to bring up groceries in trucks; Ms Vickery refused. "We don't want to take groceries anywhere, because we don't want to interrupt the grocery store. We've got to help build them as well."

Her Lions Club put drought relief donation tins in 23 Woolgoolga shops, and held a barbecue outside a supermarket. That raised $700 for the laundromat - but the Lions Club raised it to two grand.

Ms Vickery thought: "Well, I'll donate the $700 to help them set up the laundromat." She took it back to the club, and said: "Look, this is what we've got. This is what we want to do with it." One person said: "Oh, right! Let's bump it up to a thousand." And one said: "Make it $1500." "I'll go $2000."

"The money's gone in to the bank," Ms Vickery said. "I don't know, mate, what can I say? I'm just over the moon to be able to help you guys."

The Lions Club of Woolgoolga will adopt other small towns doing it hard.

The next, Ms Vickery said, will be Bendemeer. The town has no water; the council brings in bottled water. Its grocery stores closed last week; people have to go into Tamworth to shop.

At a Lions zone conference this week, she challenged other branches to support rural communities.

"We've now got other clubs on board, and we want to help other towns, whether it's buying water for them or helping set up a laundromat."

The Lions Club of Guyra's Jim Betts said the VRA might disperse some of the money to outlying people who are running short of potable water.

The Guyra club also bought food, pharmacy, and fuel vouchers, with funding through their Lions district. These are available through the Hub at Guyra.