Dave Anderson , hotelier at the Royal Federal Hotel Branxton likes to think his pub is the watering hole for some of the best locals in the Hunter, and he may just be right if the efforts of patron Cameron Waters are anything to go by.
On Saturday, 18 August the Royal Federal Hotel is holding a major fundraising event to support local patron Cam and his campaign to help the drought-stricken community of Coonabarabran and surrounds.
In fact, before the event has even taken place Dave has already pledged $5,000 to fund a second semi-trailer to carry around 40 bales of Hay to the area.
You see, despite Cam's humility and reluctance to be put on any kind of pedestal, the local business owner has almost accidentally engineered a convoy of more than 90 round bales of hay and numerous palettes of food, dog and chicken feed, and animal pellets, along with an army of 10 highly-skilled 'fixers' to travel to areas surrounding Coonabarabran where they will visit 20 farms all in desperate need of help.
"It all started when I thought to myself I could take a week off from my business to go up there and use my skills as a mechanic to help fix some of the machinery in need of repair. I figured with all the financial burden they must be under, if I could save them some money by doing repairs then it might be of some use," Cameron explained.
"So I put a closed event on Facebook for family and friends and the next morning a friend had tagged me in a local Branxton group to see if I would be willing to drop off a few supplies while I was up there. I agreed and copied and pasted it into my event and from there the whole thing just exploded."
That was two weeks ago and Cam has since had to take leave from work to manage all the donations and details of his upcoming pilgrimage.
"In addition to all the supplies, I've logged about 60 mechanical jobs across 20 farms and in some cases it's the wife who is running the farm because the man has had to take work away from home to make ends meet. Almost every day I've been looking a photos texted to me of tractors and machinery trying to figure out what parts we need and how we'll fix it when we get there."
"In addition to all the supplies I've logged about 60 mechanical jobs across 20 farms and in some cases it's the wife who is running the farm because the man has had to take work away from home to make ends meet..."
Cam's campaign has received incredible support from the Branxton and Hunter communities with suppliers and businesses jumping on board and donating everything from machinery parts, filters, oil and fuel to food, hay and other desperately needed supplies.
"It's been incredible. I've never been one to back away from a challenge, so once it started to take off I just kept saying to myself 'how much further can we take this, how do I push it to the next level?' That's when I started looking at taking hay bales as well and when we got the first 12 donated I thought to myself 'wow that's huge'. Then I got an offer for another 20."
The hay bales were provided to Cam at a discounted price which he initially paid himself, but within just a few hours locals, via Facebook, had offered to sponsor not just 20, but 40 bales bringing the full-price value to around $36,000.
"I believe we will have 92 bales in total which means we need two semi-trailers along with all our utes and trailers to transport everything," Cam said.
"I've never done anything like this before and the support has been overwhelming. I cannot describe it, but it makes you feel good to be an Aussie. Sometimes you just see all the crap that's going on and you think 'what's it all come to?' Then something like this happens and you realise that this is what it's all about, that this is the Australian way."
"I've never done anything like this before and the support has been overwhelming, I cannot describe it but it makes you feel good to be an Aussie..."
For Dave, seeing his mates and local patrons supporting both Cam and the cause has been an awe-inspiring experience.
"I am lucky to have great local patrons and I do like to think of our hotel as a community hub. We do a lot of fundraising for different causes through the pub, but Cam is a stand-out there's no doubt about that," he said.
"That said, this is a good reflection of our community and country communities in general. I grew up in Newcastle and there is certainly a sense of community there, but since I've come out to Branxton and taken on the pub, here it's just 10 fold to anything I've ever experienced before."
A Drought Relief fundraising event will be held the Royal Federal Hotel on Saturday, 18 August with all proceeds going toward funding a second semi-trailer to carry hay to northwest NSW. The night will include farmer dress ups, raffles, live music and entertainment.
You can learn more about Cam's campaign via his Facebook event page - Mechanical Maintenance Week for Drought Relief.