Valley sends train of hope

THE CALL for help went out and Clarence Valley residents responded. Loudly.

Early this morning, the final shipment of goods bound for fire-ravaged towns in Victoria made its way by train from Grafton.

Today's trainload of goods was actually the second to be sent south, with Grafton organiser David Dowd inundated by donations of clothes, books, sheets, towels, crockery, and even 210 bales of hay since he decided to help people who lost everything in the bushfires earlier this month.

“There's everything you would need to set up a home in there,” he said.

“(The project) has just grown and grown.”

Mr Dowd said the Clarence Valley Donation Train had been a 'massive' community effort, with individuals, schools, community groups and businesses all contributing to the cause.

Day after day, boxes of donations turned up on his door, while he received hundreds of phone calls from people wanting to help out.

“I've had to tell them to stop,” he said. “People just want to give.”

After receiving the mountains of goods at his home, Mr Dowd began the lengthy process of co-ordinating how the donations would be distributed in Victoria.

He organised this load of goods to be taken for free by Pacific National, while a Queensland Rail train took last week's trainload, including toys collected by children's charity Variety.

While Variety members in Victoria distributed the toys, it was up to Mr Dowd to organise volunteers in relief centres across the State to accept and distribute the other goods to people in need.

Pacific National North Coast regional manager David McKinnon said the company had operations in Victoria and was happy to help the cause, particularly when the public was so willing to contribute.

“When you see what happened in Victoria, you want to help,” he said.

For his part, Mr Dowd was thrilled by the response by businesses, including Pacific National.

“It would have cost a fortune if we had to pay for transport,” he said.

With fires still burning in Victoria, all involved agreed the hard work had been worth it.

“It's just amazing the amount Clarence Valley residents donated in such a short amount of time,” Mr Dowd said. “This really is an amazing community.”

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