Leonie Hutchinson, Coolah NSW
When floodwater seeped into the Coolah Driver Reviver site in November 2021, it soaked volunteer enthusiasm to the core.
But instead of abandoning the driver fatigue-fighting cause, co-ordinator Leonie Hutchinson and husband Quinton regrouped and rebuilt the site with a couple of other loyal volunteers.
Shortly after a devasting mouse plague in the region, the deluge caused extensive damage in Coolah and surrounds, including the loss of fencing, roads, bridges, and causeways washed away.
Homes, stock and crops were also lost.
At the Coolah Driver Reviver, water flooded more than half a metre inside the building, ruining the wooden structure, furnishings and electrical items.
The building had been flooded several times previously, but this time was different: “everything was destroyed”, Leonie says.
“We gutted it right out.”
Thankfully, they had help from a 15-member team from the NSW Disaster Relief to clean up the site.
Leonie then applied for a NSW Government Disaster Relief grant and secured $14,000 to help refurbish the building and replace equipment.
The new-look building now sports mouse-proof stainless-steel shelving, display fridge and freezer as well as a digital screen showing tourist and safety information.
“We couldn’t afford to redo the flooring, so we disinfected it and it’s come up pretty well.”
Despite the modern new-look site, volunteer numbers had shrunk to only three or four after the flood damage.
The flood had “drained the living daylights out of everybody”, Leonie says.
However, Leonie and Quinton managed to inject fresh interest in the program.
They held a Driver Reviver Revived! event to relaunch the revamped site, which was well received in the community and raised awareness.
Coolah Driver Reviver, which began more than 30 years ago, now has between 15 and 20 volunteers who serve a cuppa and a snack to motorists.
It is operated by Coolah Lions Club, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Leonie & Quinton joined Lions shortly after making a tree change from Sydney’s Northern Beaches 11 years ago.
“I'd never been involved in any volunteering before, just school things for our daughter”.
Within a month, Leonie was made secretary and she is now treasurer and public officer.
Now semi-retired, the couple has an upholstery and motor trimming shop in town three days a week near the Driver Reviver site.
Coolah Driver Reviver can be found on Binnia Street near the Coolah silos.