The scene of a fire at the old showgrounds site.
The scene of a fire at the old showgrounds site.

Salvation Army defends criticism after shed fire

THE Salvation Army has copped negative criticism about why tonnes of items for the needy were sitting unused in a shed when a large fire destroyed the lot at the weekend.

The shed, in Burrum St at the old showgrounds, contained clothing, furniture, toys and building materials left over from the 2013 flood appeal, but it was burnt to the ground on Saturday afternoon under mysterious circumstances.

Many readers took to the NewsMail's Facebook page soon after the news of the blaze broke, questioning why the Salvation Army had not distributed the donated goods.

"The flood was18 months ago. Why is the shed still full of donations?" Jennifer Cripps wrote.

"If they were donations, they should have been long dealt with by now," Leish McDaniel Rose also said.

But there were also people quick to jump to the defence of the charity.

"And yet there (are) people thick enough to think they were hiding and keeping it from people," Alan Howells wrote.

The Salvation Army's Tom Osborne said it was an unfortunate case of "you're damned if you do, damned if you don't".

"I think the community would be very surprised to know there are still over 100 families that haven't gone back into their homes, in the whole district, 18 months on," he said.

"It's a bit sad people take the attitude of 'why do we still have that stuff?'"

Mr Osborne said more than half of the shed's contents were building materials that were going to be used to help repair about 70 homes of those still displaced.

"We had people coming in (for assistance) for the first time just last week," he said.

"We've been endeavouring to spread those donations out as much as we can to make sure everyone got assistance."

Mr Osborne said the concern now was that the charity had no distribution centre if it were to begin gathering donated goods from scratch.

"There's no other building that I know of that we can use," he said.

Bundaberg Regional Council CEO Peter Byrne said the council did not have funding to build a new storage facility for the Salvation Army.

"Unfortunately council does not have vacant buildings to assist the Salvos," he said.

"However, council will work in close co-operation with management from the Salvation Army to ensure they are able to continue to provide this essential service to the community."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Mr Osborne said he suspected it had been deliberately lit.

"It's a bit sad when you do that to a charity," Mr Osborne said.

He said cash donations would be appreciated and people could donate by calling the centre on 4153 3557.



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