Generous Russell residents dig deep

By Sue Ferens

One small Bay of Islands community has dug quickly and deep to raise funds to assist the stricken Asian tsunami victims, possibly being the largest donating town per capita in the north.
Russell and environs, totalling about 2000 ratepayers, this week donated $10,000 to Unicef for their aid relief, after only one week of fund raising in the town. That's an impressive amount of $5 per person.
Chairman of Enterprise Russell John Agace said he was blown away by the response.
"It's absolutely tremendous," Mr Agace said.
On December 30, following news of the Boxing Day disaster, Enterprise Russell trustees decided to do something to raise money as quickly as possible for the aid relief and following a meeting between Mr Agace and the CEO of Unicef New Zealand, who was holidaying in Russell over the weekend, an attention grabbing campaign was launched.
"Double and double double", promoted on posters created by midday on New Year's Eve promised Enterprise Russell would match dollar-for-dollar donations up to a maximum of $2500.
But organisers were soon overwhelmed by the response from local people and visitors, keen to donate what they were able.
Mr Agace said some of the stories of people involved, including waiters and waitresses handing over their tips from one of the biggest weekends of the year in Russell, showed the generosity of local people.
"We're a fairly wealthy community really, and it's good to see that people realise sometimes we have to share it," he said.
"One restaurateur had already started a double donation campaign herself and she entered into our fund raising and it was a substantial amount she ended up contributing."
The township's Catholic community, usually numbering eight, swelled to a congregation of 70 at last weekend's Sunday service, contributing a substantial donation.
One couple donated $800, people carried donation buckets up and down the beach and around the town, one waterfront restaurant gave all their weekend tips and one hotel donated all the profits from a New Year's Eve barbeque.
Mr Agace said the funds are already helping to provide 25,000 household kits, due to arrive in Colombo this week.

An additional 50,000 are on the way along with children's clothing and other much needed supplies. And the Russell community is not stopping with its $10,000 initial donation.
Mr Agace says since internet publicity about the campaign two sponsors have come forward, enabling the doubling strategy to be continued and a further donation of $1000 had been received.
Enterprise Russell plans a doubling donation drive during the Dave Dobbyn/Brooke Fraser concerts in Russell this coming weekend and they have a few other plans in the wings.
"We think we can keep it going until the end of the month," said Mr Agace.

- Northern Advocate

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