It was about six weeks ago when Bendigo Advertiser journalist Allanah Sciberras launched her feature series introducing Addy readers to their local frontline workers. These are people who have dedicated their time and energy to keeping our community safe. They are our COVID-19 heroes, and they've taken the time to talk about their experiences over the last two years.
FOR 14 years, Sheryn Gallagher has dedicated herself to the Mosquito Creek Central Fire Authority Brigade.
And after 14 years, and a lifetime more, helping her community in any way she can has become second nature to Sheryn.
So naturally, when the opportunity arose five years ago, there was no one better suited to the role of team leader than Sheryn.
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And for every single one of those last five years she has led her team through thick and thin.
This list of difficult things Sheryn and her team have seen is a long one, to say the least. And of course, as it does for many, the coronavirus pandemic is one of the top items in that list.
For Sheryn, the reasons behind her joining the Mosquito Creek team - after moving from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Melbourne - were two-fold.
"I joined when we moved up from Melbourne and (I) thought it would be a really great way to meet people," she said.
"I also joined because you can't expect people to help you in a time of crisis, if you are not willing to help them and that was a major factor behind becoming involved."
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Loud and proud of her community spirit, it was a simple hop, skip and a jump for Sheryn to join the local CFA.
"Some of that comes from the fact my husband and I are in the Scout association and we have had the community spirit for a long time," she said.
"Helping others is at the forefront of our lives."
And for someone who works in the first responder/emergency service profession, Sheryn always makes a point of acknowledging the silver-lining in every situation to help waterdown the heavy scenes she and her team are often greeted with.
In the case of the coronavirus pandemic - which has seen the already debilitating pressure on emergency service workers double, no triple - Sheryn was amazed to welcome six new brigade members.
It wasn't as smooth sailing as it sounded, however.
After initially signing up in March 2020 the series of lockdowns that swept across the state meant the new recruits had a while to wait before they could be trained up.
"Last year we had a community day and we actually had a couple of new people sign up. They filled up the paperwork and (everything, and then) we went into our first set of lockdowns so we couldn't do anything with them," Sheryn explained.
"All we could do was keep them (as) engaged as possible.
"And then (we) rolled into (the) last fire period and we didn't have any training for them to (do)."
It was roughly a year before the six new additions were actually able to become the six new additions, but even then the waters hadn't calmed.
"(It wasn't until) March this year (that) we brought them all back together," Sheryn said.
"And then we went in and out of lockdown, it (was) very disjointed for them."
But now, as the state and the nation open up, it looks as though the storm has passed as Sheryn said the new (old) recruits have stuck by the team and persisted patiently.
"They have all stuck with us though which is very positive and hopefully this summer we will be having six new firefighters working with us," she said.
"It would have been very easy for them to walk away just because it was hard."
That is a testament to the type of people they are and how they want to help our community.Sheryn Gallagher
The Mosquito Creek CFA volunteers have been helping keep Lake Eppalock, Kimbolton and Mosquito Creek communities safe for 100 years now.
The brigade currently has about 14 active firefighters and another five who have stayed on as members.
"Everyone has a part to play," she said.
"We have members who are still involved in the brigade who don't necessarily jump on the back of the truck."
In a time where volunteers are hard to come by, Sheryn said she was incredibly proud of the way the new members came on and carried themselves throughout their 'waiting period'.
"The new recruits will help a lot and the members are getting a little older," she said.
"To have some younger members come in will be really good."
Being a team of volunteers, Sheryn said it was a battle sometimes to get trucks out the door with people commuting back and forth from their jobs in Bendigo.
But despite some of the challenges and the dark times the pandemic challenged her team with - both personally and professionally - Sheryn said it was through teamwork and dedication the Mosquito Creek Brigade has kept pushing forward.
"Thank you to everyone who does put in their time and effort because it is not easy," she said.
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