GIVIT up for Caroline: Heartfelt, tech-savvy helping hand for bushfire recovery

It's Caroline Odgers' mission to share the stories of bushfire victims and inspire people to donate.

Ms Odgers is the regional ACT and NSW manager for GIVIT - a virtual warehouse filled with essentials for those in need.

The former Carroll College student, now living in Canberra, has found her job sometimes overwhelming. Six months after the bushfires, she is still meeting people only just reaching out for assistance.

"Every story that pops up, your heart just sinks," she said.

"Six months on, people are only just seeking help."

A man camping on his burned property near Nerrigundah only recently reached out to GIVIT.

HOME IS WHERE HEART IS: Carroll College graduate Caroline Odgers runs a virtual warehouse to provide essential items for those in need.

HOME IS WHERE HEART IS: Carroll College graduate Caroline Odgers runs a virtual warehouse to provide essential items for those in need.

"He said it was getting a bit cold and asked for a blanket; they then found out he had been bathing in the river since January," Ms Odgers said.

The GIVIT team helped him write a wish list.

"We sourced him the basics he needed, things like solar for hot water and a battery inverter," Ms Odgers said.

"As of next week he should be sorted.

"It's such a privilege to work with these people who have gone through unimaginable grief."

Ms Odgers still felt connected to the Eurobodalla Shire, where she grew up.

She said her father helped found Carroll College - a place close to her heart. When the bushfires came so close, tearing through bushland at Broulee, she said it was "hard to watch" from the comfort of her Canberra home.

After her initial visits, seeing the devastation and destruction, Ms Odgers felt "survivor's guilt".

"It was the hardest thing, coming back to my warm home that's still standing," she said. "I felt guilty that I could be doing more."

To help on the long recovery road ahead, Ms Odgers decided to seek help from a counsellor.

Caroline Odgers, Bega MP Andrew Constance with Janine Hutton of Campbell Page with donated car seats on Mogo Aboriginal Preschool bus.

Caroline Odgers, Bega MP Andrew Constance with Janine Hutton of Campbell Page with donated car seats on Mogo Aboriginal Preschool bus.

"I began to re-shift my focus from being overwhelmed by the devastation - to instead focusing on one donation at a time," she said.

Rather than feeling guilt, Ms Odgers said she would take on energy from inspiration and others' resilience.

GIVIT works with local councils and 3500 charities across Australia, as well as residents to provide essential items to those in need.

They have offered everything from "generators for homes lost in Mogo to a pair of school shoes for a child in a drought affected area".

"People can also offer their services and volunteering," Ms Odgers said.

The shire was swamped with generosity in the first few weeks after the disaster hit.

"People literally dumped donations on the evacuation centres, charities, or on the side of a road or property," she said.

She said many donations weren't quality and "hampered efforts".

Since January, GIVIT extended its service to bushfire recovery in NSW.

"Finding unsolicited donations were becoming quite a problem," Ms Odgers said.

Caroline Odgers and Christine Welsh of the Sapphire Community Pantry with the recipient of donated water filter kits.

Caroline Odgers and Christine Welsh of the Sapphire Community Pantry with the recipient of donated water filter kits.

"We came in to take away that headache."

Donors can lodge their goods or services to GIVIT's "online warehouse".

Charities can then log on and reserve what they need.

Ms Odgers said 100 percent of funds received by GIVIT went towards purchasing items.

She said vouchers were practical and rewarding.

"We go in to local shops and buy vouchers," she said.

"Some shop owners are reduced to tears and would say they haven't put this much money through the tills in months."

The Eurobodalla Shire lost 501 homes in the summer bushfires.

Many businesses were destroyed, along with sheds housing important items such as tractors and tools.

To visit the GIVIT website, CLICK HERE.

Caroline Odgers of GIVIT and Dennis McGrath of BlazeAid.

Caroline Odgers of GIVIT and Dennis McGrath of BlazeAid.

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