Cobden businesses as well as victims of the St Patrick’s Day fires in the Cobden and Terang areas are to benefit from a unique assistance program devised by the Cobden Uniting Church.
Church treasurer Barbara Cowley said the program recognised that Cobden businesses had lost significant trade when peat smoke covered the town for weeks after the blazes.
Mrs Cowley, who herself lost about 32 hectares (80 acres) to the Lake Cobrico peat fire, said the church would this week distribute more than $20,000 in vouchers to fire victims to be spent at Cobden businesses.
“It gives all shopkeepers the chance to participate and will put $20,000 into the local economy,” she said.
Mrs Cowley said the money for the program had come from unsolicited donations and from the sale of excess donated goods. Donations had come from Uniting Churches throughout Victoria, other community organisations and many anonymous donors, she said.
The church attracted donations because it became known as a direct way to help fire victims through its distribution of food and other assistance to fire victims, she said.
Mrs Cowley said the church’s Op Shop had been overwhelmed with donations of goods and some had been sold to raise about $5500 that went towards the voucher scheme.
The church is helping more than 190 people impacted by the St Patrick’s blazes in the Cobden and Terang areas.
While public attention had drifted away from the fire victims, there were many who were still struggling, Mrs Cowley said.
Emotional support was also being provided to victims, Mrs Cowley said.