16 Jun A Hunter hero
Reverend John Mason is a resident of Uniting Salamander Bay, an independent living village in the Hunter region. A thriving village, many of the residents have lived there for over 20 years. The residents have formed strong friendships through the regular community activities. Many of the residents attend church together on Saturdays and take pride in tending to the gardens in the community.
Today, the gardens are in full bloom and the residents are happy, but it was not long ago that devastation struck the village.
In April 2014, the Hunter region battled the worst storm seen this century.
Cyclonic winds of up to 135km per hour lashed the coastal towns and torrential rain cut power to hundreds of thousands of homes. Entire homes were washed away in the floodwaters, and three people lost their lives. Uniting Salamander Bay was hit hard by the disaster.
“It was a dramatic, difficult time for everyone,” says Rev. John. “It was a disaster zone.”
The State Emergency Service helped clean up the damage, which included fallen trees. One resident’s roof caved in, and the village was without power or phone lines for a week.
Luckily Rev. John’s courage and sense of community brought the village together during the traumatic time. Residents became fearful when their electricity was lost, but Rev. John ensured everyone had access to water for cooking. John was especially concerned for older residents, one of whom is 102 years old. The community used the village barbecue to boil water and cook, and everyone shared all the resources they had.
Ever modest, John is adamant that he did no more than should be expected in such an event. However, his determination to make other residents feel safe did not go unnoticed, and it brought the village together in a way that John now remembers fondly.
“It was a great time of neighbourliness,” recalls John. Uniting staff brought food and gas bottles for the residents throughout the week, some of whom were unable to leave their homes.
“They brought great comfort to us,” says John.
The village has returned to normal now. Rev. John and many other residents are back gardening and helping to restore the village grounds.
“Everyone who comes here is taken by the beauty of the place,” John says proudly.
Uniting Salamander Bay is a thriving community, showcasing the resilience of our residents in the face of adversity.