It was an unexpected gesture by strangers. Lorraine West, of 41 Heather Glen Road, didn’t lose her home in the Winmalee firestorm but she’s felt “depressed” ever since those fires because of the damage done to her roof and the garage, but especially to the half acre of garden and bush surrounding her home. That and the fact she’s one of only a handful of homes left on the street.
Cue the entry of 40-plus members of the Foothills Vineyard Church from Penrith. Everyone from a pregnant mum to a few senior citizens spent 11 hours at Mrs West’s property mulching and digging and planting in an effort to return it to some semblance of normality.
With spades and shovels, in boots and King Gees, they spent 11 hours on March 29 on her property.
Mrs West’s daughter in Singles Ridge Road nominated her for the blitz.
“At first I wasn’t too keen when she told me. I had only moved to the Mountains from Leonay five months before the fire. It had been hard to find the incentive to start.”
It wasn’t how the store merchandiser expected to spend her retirement, dipping into her superannuation to take down trees and repair the roof not covered by her insurance, so she was overwhelmed by the kindness of the Christian strangers.
When the Gazette visited she had stockpiled more than 20 Humpty Dumpty Easter eggs to deliver to the children who had worked so hard on the day.
“I just want other people to know about their amazing work,” Mrs West said. “The children worked just as hard as the adults moving chipping around the gardens. They want to do another home and when they do, I’ll be working alongside them.”
Church spokeswoman Rebekah Small said their group was “really pleased with the result”.
“We had heard a lot of people had to pay to have trees removed. They didn’t get a lot of help if their homes had not burnt down.”
The church had generous donations from Sydney Sandstone Quarries, Botanica Nurseries, St Marys Online Hire, Nepean Garden Makers and Springwood Recycling Centre among many others.
Mrs West said the Salvation Army had also given her $1000 to buy plants which the group planted, to create a “beautiful garden”.
“For the first time in six months I feel things are improving,” she said.
To donate or help at the church’s next event go to their Facebook page — Mountains Fire Recovery FVC Backyard Blitz.