A 'surprise' donation to Back to Bilpin has spurred its founders to expand the tourism campaign beyond the social media realm and re-launch it with a "very special" initiative.
The Richmond Travel Club presented a cheque for $10,000 to the Back to Bilpin committee to assist them with the recovery from the bushfires in 2019.
Richmond Travel Club's Peter Minigle said to raise the funds, the club organised a 10-day tour to Queensland early in 2020 called the Outback to Outback, Longreach to Gold Coast (Outback Spectacular).
"Unfortunately due to COVID the tour was postponed until May 2021. The tour raised $5,000 and another $5,000 was added from the funds of the Travel Club," Mr Minigle said.
"As a non-profit club in the community we wanted to give some support to those who were affected by the devastating fires. Back to Bilpin was chosen to receive the donation as it was felt that it would benefit more of those affected.
"Our members all helped by going on a great tour which in turn made it possible to raise the money. In 2019 the Travel Club raised $2,500 for the Drought Relief at the time, so when the fires happened locally we decided to try and help out as best we could."
He said the members of the Travel Club, though now disbanded, were proud of the funds they raised and the support they gave.
Councillor Sarah Richards, Back To Bilpin founder and creator, said the donation was "completely unexpected and took everyone involved with the #BackToBilpin tourism campaign by surprise".
We are totally thrilled by the generosity and humbled by the consideration to donate to our group.Councillor Sarah Richards
"We are totally thrilled by the generosity and humbled by the consideration to donate to our group. We cannot thank Peter, Norma and Janette from the Richmond Travel Club enough!" she said.
"Up until now, #BackToBilpin was simply a Facebook tourism campaign, which was initiated after the Black Summer Bushfires in the Summer of 2019/20 to help the small businesses of Bilpin. It never had any money spent on it and its success was purely organic.
"Now that we have received our first ever donation, we will invest some time in setting up a proper entity, so that we can bank the funds and set about using them for #BackToBilpin ideas."
Clr Richards, together with Back To Bilpin's Michael Sperling, Lionel Buckett and Matthew Bennett, have met to discuss how to use the $10,000 donation from Richmond Travel Club.
The funds will be used to form part of the #BackToBilpin post-lockdown relaunch.
"We have a very special idea that we are working on and once finalised, we cannot wait to share it with you all," Clr Richards said.
"It will involve some meticulous planning and community consultation, so we hope that it all comes together shortly and we can launch soon."