Mum brings together 70+ businesses to support fire victims
A SMALL-business owner has gathered support from more than 70 Central Queensland businesses who have jumped on board with a fundraising initiative to help victims of the fires across Australia.
Emerald's Cassie Watene was scrolling through social media and saw the devastation that continues from the wildfires - the houses and towns that have been burnt, the animals killed and families of those who have lost their lives.
In January last year, she was visiting family in Tasmania when bushfires broke out.
"Our friends and family were evacuated, and my dad and brothers were fighting the fires there," Mrs Watene said.
"When I saw all of this (recent fires), I thought 'it's so much worse, surely there's something I can do'."
Ms Watene, the owner of Cas' Cakery, decided to run a raffle to raise funds to donate to people and animals who have been affected by the disaster.
She put a call out on social media, and within 24 hours she had countless messages and donations from businesses across the Central Highlands who wanted to get involved.
The mother-of-four has received more than $13,000 worth of donated prizes from about 74 businesses in Emerald, Springsure, the Gemfields and through online support.
"I was so blown away," Mrs Watene said.
"I wasn't expecting anything to happen that quickly.
"But, being a smaller community, people want to get on-board and I love that about Emerald."
She will create 20 mega prize packs, filled with beauty products, giftwares, vouchers, tools and much more.
The prizes will be raffled at a family fun day on February 8 at the Botanic Gardens, which will also host a sausage sizzle run by the local fire fighters.
Emerald Fire Service acting area commander Clive Weeks said it was an excellent initiative that would do extremely well to support those affected by fires.
"It's all about helping other communities in need, because I'm sure one day we'll be in need and need their help," he said.
"Those poor people down there are really suffering."
The Australian bushfire crisis has caused more than $700 million worth of damage since September.
It has claimed 24 lives, with 253 fires still burning, destroying more than 1600 homes.
Fundraising tickets cost $5 each and can be purchased at a range of businesses, including Highland Homewares, Emerald Office Supplies, Suncorp, as well as through the Cas' Cakery Facebook page which shows a full list of businesses involved.
Mrs Watene will also be selling tickets at the Central Highlands Marketplace from 9-1pm every Saturday for the next three weeks.
All proceeds raised from the raffle and the family fun day will be split between Wires wildlife rescue organisation and Australia Red Cross on behalf of the Central Highlands community.
"We're hoping the community gets behind us to make a difference," Mrs Watene said.