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Allana Ferguson's family ramps up fire relief campaign

A family brainstorming session on New Year's Eve has led retired Jillaroo Allana Ferguson on a bushfire relief mission targeting the Lake Conjola area of the NSW south coast.

"It's not just me. It's been a wonderful response from people who want to help," Ferguson told NRL.com.

But Ferguson and her family's name and reputation has been the driving force in not only collecting more than four semi-trailers worth of food, clothing and household goods, but now more than 1,000 care packs for fire-affected residents and volunteer fire fighters alike.

"We have a house in Lake Conjola that we holiday at – I've been going there forever. So we know a lot of the community. We have a lot of great mates down there and also at Bendalong," she said.

Ferguson has not been able to check on her family property as yet but it was water-bombed several times and she understands the home is still standing.

It was at her mum and dad's place on New Year's Eve that rescue plans were hatched.

 
 
 
 
 
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#day4 SUPPLY PACKS READY TO HEAD DOWN THE COAST We spent today making more supply packs ready for the fire affected communities that are low on resources or isolated. We have been in touch with emergency services as to how to get the supply packs into the targeted areas. Your donations made this happen, we were able to make several trips back and forth to the shops to stock up on specific items as the day went by. So far we’ve sent 500+ packs directly to the people who need it by boat, and today got to work to create more that are heading down via escort first light tomorrow. We have estimated that close to 1000 packs in total have been made and after tomorrow will have been taken directly to the people in need. My family and I are so incredibly mind blown with the lengths everyone has gone to and are so proud to be part of a country that never hesitated to rally in a time of need. Our friends, the community and local businesses have been unbelievable in making this all happen. Thank you so much! If you’ve donated via the link in my bio or dropped off earlier in the week then YOU are the ones making this possible. In the truck heading down tomorrow we also have generators, chainsaws, petrol, protective clothing, baby formula, nappies, baby food, hygiene products for the elderly, slabs of water, eye drops and masks. In a time of heart brake and devastation, when our country is burnt and burning, you have proved that it is the people who have kept it together. Thank you again for making such a significant difference and helping us, help them 🖤

A post shared by Allana Ferguson (@allanaferg_) on

"We were sitting around the pool in Bulli at mum and dad's and we had decided not to go down to the area for safety reasons. But we felt so helpless as so many of our friends were there," Ferguson said.

"So we brainstormed some ideas… and one was to collect items that people would need immediately as they'd lost everything. There were more than 80 homes lost that first night."

Social media posts gave two collection points – Ferguson's father's Taren Point and Wollongong shops for his outdoor sporting goods, Fergo's Tackle World – for goods and/or monetary donations.

"Because we had so many ties down there [Lake Conjola area] we could get goods to them immediately."

The response was also pretty quick.  In 48 hours Ferguson had to put a halt to the physical donations as they'd run out of space at their two warehouses.

"We'd filled four semi-trailers of good – that's how generous everyone has been – of a whole range of things like food, water, hygiene, medical supplies and clothing.

"Everyone rallied in the Sutherland shire and Wollongong because a lot of them holiday down there too. So people bought brand new items and brought them to us."

Ferguson is still collecting money and that is being used to make up individual packs of water, food, eye drops, face masks, hygiene essentials like toothpaste and deodorant that are being distributed by boat, NSW police escorts and the Rural Fire Service vehicles.

"The police and RFS have contacted us because the pre-made packs are easier to get to people than the logistics of having a central collection point where people can have a free-for-all."

Specific packs have also been made for the RFS workers that include aloe vera cream, lip balm, snack foods, eye drops hydrolyte and electrolyte powder to add to their water bottles.   

Ferguson and 30 friends have been assembling the care-packs over the past few days and will continue to do so.

The other donated food and goods have been placed onto 80 pallets and will be delivered once the roads are all open.

Ferguson is still after monetary donations as her team is also using this money to buy generators.

"They still have no power down there which is affecting everything in their lives. So we've sent 10 generators down there and we're working on getting more," Ferguson said.

Jillaroo Millie Boyle, whose family lives in Cobargo in another badly affected bushfire region 200km south of Lake Conjola, has set up a fund-raising initiative via her social media pages.

"We don’t know how long it will take to rebuild our town, but we have to start somewhere," Boyle wrote in her Instagram post.

Other Jillaroos are auctioning off signed jerseys while the response right across the NRL and NRLW has been to pitch in wherever possible to try and raise funds for the RFS and those who have been hit hard by the bushfire criis.