Pictured: The front entrance of Bellbird Park Indoor Centre.
Over the last few days YMCA-managed Bellbird Park Indoor Centre in Drouin transformed into safe haven for bushfire affected locals as the emergency evacuation point with YMCA staff and community banding together.
The centre, which is best known to the local community for playing basketball or futsal, had 60 locals staying during the day and 40 people staying overnight who could not return to their homes.
YMCA Bellbird Park Stadium Coordinator Ryan Witty was one of those on the ground, working around the clock to ensure all the locals staying had their basic needs met, but also felt safe and supported.
“It has been a horrible time, but everyone was in pretty good spirits and focusing on the positive. Everyone was really grateful,” he said.
Community groups went above and beyond, with mattresses donated by Salvos and other supplies from Red Cross, Lions Club, local police, St Johns, Frankston, Mornington and Baw Baw councils and more. The local supermarket was also on standby to donate food.
“I head a few stories about how scary it was leaving, but overall people were really proud of the community effort – we were constantly getting phone calls from people asking how they could help,” Ryan said.
A stand out story for Ryan of this resilience and community spirit is the 14-year-old boy who had his birthday on Monday while staying at the centre.
“I went out and got him a cake and we had a birthday party for him in the centre. The family were really happy,” he said.
Thankfully many fires in the area have been degraded to a watch and act, and the Bellbird Park Indoor Centre is no longer required as an emergency point, providing the locals with a chance to take a breath.
Thank you to everybody who came together to support those affected by the fires. The community spirit shown over the past few days has made this difficult time that little bit easier.