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Service over Christmas lunch

Published 18/01/2012

FOR Mark Garwood Christmas lunch wasn't as relaxing as he had hoped. The Keilor SES volunteer, along with many of his mates, was just lucky enough to polish off some turkey and ham, before getting the call to assist victims of the Christmas Day storms, which caused havoc in parts of Brimbank and Melton Shire.

More than 1000 households were affected by damaging storms, and the State Emergency Services reported over 1400 calls for assistance in the Taylors Lakes and Keilor Downs areas with pockets of St Albans also affected.

Mr Garwood said he knew Christmas lunch was over the moment he saw the black clouds overhead, and simply waited for the call.

"As soon as the pager went off, I knew I had to go," he said.

"My pager went crazy."

But it's all in a day's work for the humble volunteer, who said he liked to help out whenever he could.

"We just tried to reassure everyone that we would do the best we could."

The St Albans resident said volunteers worked tirelessly for days on end, covering roofs that had caved in and patching holes caused by hail the size of tennis balls.

"I was surprised no one was injured. People just didn't know what to do first."

Local politicians have praised the work of volunteers, with the MP for the Western Metropolitan Region Bernie Finn calling them heroes.

"Here they were having turkey and some pud, and they got a call and just walked out to help other people," Mr Finn said.

"Many hadn't been home in days except to get changed."

Mr Finn said it was important the volunteers were recognised for their outstanding work and great personal sacrifice.

"I'm extraordinarily impressed with what the volunteers did."

"Some were climbing over peoples' rooves in inclement conditions at great personal risk."

Keilor MP Natalie Hutchins said the SES crew had done an amazing job not only on Christmas Day, but also beyond.

Ms Hutchins, who has door knocked over 300 homes in the area since the storms, said residents had offered enormous amounts of praise for volunteers who helped secure their home.

"Everyone has given them the highest praise."

Natalie Gallenti 2012, 'Service over Christmas lunch', Star News Group (Sunshine-Ardeer-Albion), 17 January, p. 7.