The Road Ahead : February 2013
ROADAHEAD.COM.AU THE ROAD AHEAD FEB/MAR 2013 10 COMMUNITY | RACQ FOUNDATION THE MORNING AFTER Cyclone Yasi hit, the Cardwell Country Club was all but dead. It took almost two years and a massive community effort -- assisted by the RACQ -- but the club finally threw its doors open on New Year's Eve, 2012. The coastal town was at the epicentre of the Category Five severe tropical cyclone when it slammed into the coast on February 3, 2011. Before the cyclone, the club was $65,000 in debt. After it the small community club was looking at an insurmountable debt of $400,000 more. Yasi had torn the club building apart. Just the frame still stood -- everything else from roof to flooring was wrecked. Roof, trusses, walls and floor had to be replaced. Poker machines, equipment, kitchen, bar and stock were ruined. For club president Ray Cerezo, it was nightmare. He'd taken on the role in 2008, just as the global financial crisis slashed into the tourism dollar on which the village of Cardwell depends. He'd been through the horror of the cyclone itself and now the club for which he felt responsible faced a huge challenge to survive. The future was bleak, and even 18 months later, the torn emotions of Yasi had not faded. In September 2012, Ray was interviewed about Yasi and its destruction. In the video, he is obviously distressed, turning from the camera with tears in his eyes. You can see he's reliving the trauma of a severe cyclone, its incessant, howling winds and the destruction they bring. The club so dear to his heart seemed lost. But that was before the Queensland spirit kicked in. The RACQ Foundation donated $50,000, gambling funds chipped in, and rebuilding could begin. It was not until just before Christmas 2012 that the Cardwell Country Club could begin to hold functions again, and their first real bash was to usher in the New Year. "It's really been Struggle Street," Ray said. "But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel." As part of efforts to save the core club, the bowling green and nine-hole golf course the country club maintained were cut adrift to sink or swim as separate businesses. Both are operational again, the golf course due to a huge contribution from a local philanthropist couple. The bowling green has been refurbished and is in excellent condition, Ray said. RACQ Group CEO Ian Gillespie said the RACQ Foundation was proud to support community organisations such as the Cardwell Country Club. "The Cardwell Country Club is one of more than 100 community groups throughout Queensland to be approved for more than $6 million from the RACQ Foundation since it was set up in January 2011," Mr Gillespie said. "One of the Foundation's purposes is to help affected community organisations recover and to allow for charity organisations to provide ongoing assistance to flood and cyclone victims. "We encourage community organisations impacted by natural disasters to apply for funding up to $200,000 per clubbing in for cardwell IMAGES: RAY CEREZO. CARDWELL COUNTRY CLUB EXTERIOR NEARING COMPLETION. REPLACEMENT EQUIPMENT AND REPAIRED SHED. INTERIOR AWAITING REFURBISHMENT.