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'Lady hobo' working to make the world better

Ilona Harker and  Paul Spooner with cheques from Rise Above the Flood Appeal
Ilona Harker and Paul Spooner with cheques from Rise Above the Flood Appeal

CHEQUES have been sent to flood relief businesses after the benefit aid concert, Rise Above the Flood was a success.

And one 'lady hobo' from the Byron Shire made it happen.

Musician and Arts Therapist, Ilona Harker was the fundraising coordinator of the event and said she felt the urge to help after she saw the state of Lismore on TV while she was away.

After putting calls out to see if anyone was interested in doing a gig, she got a big response.

Upon returning to the region, Ms Harker said she saw just how "devastated the community was".

"It was like a war zone, I've never experienced anything like it," Ms Harker said.

"I called Helping Hands and they said we could collect money at The Byron Bay Blues Festival.

We got a whole heap of volunteers together last minute and got some buckets. They got very heavy with $20,000 worth of coins being donated by festival goers."

More funds were kicked off before the night by Patti Smith, and couple Rebecca Rigg and Simon Baker, who's donations collectively made up $20,000.

With the immediacy of her actions, Ms Harker didn't realise she couldn't legally raise money without being covered by a charity, which is when Manager from the Byron Community Centre Paul Spooner jumped on board.

He helped in orchestrating the concert, donated the use of the theatre and the staff to the event and helped ensure that all funds were managed correctly, Ms Harker said.

"It just goes to show when people have a way and a solution to help others and it's easy, then people want to help.

"This is just a homeless lady hobo wanting to do stuff to make the world better," she said of herself.

Ms Harker said once she had an idea set up, people were flocking in to help.

"Once people have a vehicle to be able to help, they'll help."

Rise Above the Flood, aimed to aid those affected by the March 31 weather event, saw performances by Hussy Hicks, The Button Collective, Gyan and Heartworn Highway among many others.

Ms Harker said she was motivated to help after listening to struggles of friends in the community who were affected by the floods and was surprised and delighted by the amount of funds raised.

"I thought we'd only make $5000," she said.

Of $43,910.26 raised after expenses, funds will be distributed to the following:

- Helping Hands Lismore= $1000.00

- Mullumbimby and district neighbourhood centre Direct flood relief= $14,303.42

- Tweed Shire Council Mayor Appeal Fund Direct flood relief= $14,303.42

- Lismore City Council Flood Appeal Direct flood relief= $14,303.42

Topics:  ilona harker northern rivers natural disaster rise above the flood



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