GoFundMe to help Kenny and Tina in Lismore floods
A GoFundMe page has been launched to help two of Bourke’s former residents.
Kenny and Tina Gaffney’s house in Lismore was completely inundated when the worst flood on record swept through the town just over a week ago.
Kenny managed to get his wife Tina and one-year-old baby, Pia, to safety, but was unable to save his home.
Although the house is still standing, like so many others in Lismore he is counting loss of everything inside it – fittings, furniture, electrical appliances, literally everything except the clothes they were wearing.
It was a terrifying experience for Kenny, who moved to Lismore in 2016 and saw the last major flood there in 2017.
“On the Sunday morning we were sent a flood warning and I was checking the Facebook pages all day for updates,” he said.
“Everyone in Lismore thought it would be like the 2017 floods when it got to 12 metres, and the water got to the road outside the house.
“We live in East Lismore on a slope, so this area doesn’t flood – we thought. But I was very cautious, constantly checking the updates. I told Tina she should start packing some of the baby’s food and clothing and that we should prepare for the worst.
“I couldn’t sleep Sunday night, was up all through the night checking updates and at 5am on Monday I looked out the back of the house and the water was already covering the back lawn and the driveway.
“I was panicking a bit because this was much worse than 2017. By 6.30am it was up to the third step at the back of the house.
“That’s when I hit the panic button and told Tina to grab what she could for the baby while I covered all the power points and put the electrical equipment up on tables.
“By 8am I was trying to call the SES and triple zero, but all the lines were busy. I checked on Facebook and saw reports that the flood level in the CBD was past the 2017 level at 15.5 metres.
“By about 8.15am water was coming into the house, and I was up to my ankles. I didn’t want to open the door and let the floodwaters pour in and I saw a neighbour with a kayak outside the house, so I banged on the window, and we managed to get out on his kayak.
“It was all such an adrenaline rush, I just wanted to get the family and the dog out. By now the water was higher than we imagined.
“We got to the school where Tina works, which is on higher ground, and one of her co-workers who has a boat took me back to the house so I could grab food and clothing. The water was so high we had to duck under power lines.
“Inside the house the water was waist deep and I knew I couldn’t do anything – I just looked at the house and had to leave.
“When we were at the higher vantage point I could look back and see my house under water and I just cried,” he said.
On Tuesday morning, Kenny borrowed a canoe and went back to the house to salvage what he could. It was a scene of utter devastation.
“The water inside was over my head by then,” he said. “There was nothing I could salvage.”
Three former Bourkeites living in Lismore rallied to help – Ray Nean, Tony Bennett, and Louis Hollman.
“I can’t thank them enough,” Kenny said. “I didn’t have to ask; they were there to lend a hand.”
Like many others in East Lismore, he didn’t have flood insurance and is only eligible for building repairs.
He is facing a massive bill to replace virtually everything inside his house, from new carpets to every household item and the entire kitchen and bathroom.
“Noone in my area had flood insurance and I couldn’t pay $21,000 a year in an area that we thought would never flood, we needed that for the baby and living expenses,” he said.
Kenny works as a chef at a local restaurant and is also now out of work after the premises, like so many others in the city, went under water.
Tina works at the local school, which was temporarily closed as well, and this week was baby Pia’s first birthday – a birthday the family will never forget.
“My family’s safety was all that mattered,” Kenny said. “But now we have to rebuild our lives.
“I’m not the kind of person to ask for help, but I know Bourke people always look out for their own and I am so grateful and thankful for the messages of support I have had, the phone calls and the texts – it’s been mind-blowing.
“I am so grateful to Ashlee Hoffman who has set up the GoFundMe page, I’m speechless at that generosity and I am reminded that Bourke people always look out for each other.
“Our families are a long way away and we have no-one here, so we really appreciate how kind and thoughtful people have been,” Kenny said.