‘We need this chopper’: Community rallies for rescue service
RACQ CQ Rescue saved Martin Bella's brother after he was crushed by a horse on a remote Isaac property earlier this year.
So when the Mackay Region councillor discovered someone had allegedly stolen money from the rescue service's charity tin at Sarina Pie Shop, he sprang into action.
"It was a lousy act," he said yesterday, sitting outside the pie shop rattling the tin to replace the missing donations.
"If it hadn't been for the rescue helicopter, the outcome (for Peter) could have been much worse," Cr Bella said.
The Sarina community rallied behind Cr Bella's fundraising drive.
"We've got more notes in this bucket than we've got coins," he said.
"Almost everyone has someone they're directly in contact with that has had to use the chopper.
"There is no ifs or buts, we need that chopper."
Peter Bella, who was helping his brother fundraise, said the alleged theft was "one of the lowest things going".
"(I) just hope they never need the service in their life," he said.
Mr Bella said he would never be 100 per cent after his injury but was back on light duties.
"I'm getter there slowly, a few problems here and there," he said.
Sarina Pie Shop owners Barry and Nathan Mooney discovered the alleged theft on Monday and since then the community has united to ensure the lifesaving rescue service is not short-changed.
At a Sarina State High School free dress day students donated a gold coin and the pie shop gave fifty cents from every piece of hot food sold to the cause.
Cr Bella sat outside the shop all day raising funds.
"I didn't really think there would be anything of this magnitude come out of it," Mr Mooney said.
"One of us put it on our Facebook and Marty Bella saw it and went ape s--- on it. It is something very passionate for him."
Mr Mooney said there had been an unreal response to the donation drive, with people dropping $10, $20 or even $50 notes in the bucket.
"I know it is a very well respected organisation, something like this really shows what people have got in them," he said.
"We've been really stoked with what has happened."
Mr Mooney said online donations also had been pouring in, including $500 from New South Wales.
"There are so many disasters around," he said. "There are a lot of other good causes that people could be helping."
Sarina State High School principal Jane Grieger said when the school heard about the alleged theft they wanted to do their part.
"We just know the valuable role that CQ Rescue has within the wider community and we wanted to help out when we found out some money went missing," she said.
"The whole community rallied about that and the school wanted to give back."
RACQ CQ Rescue chief executive officer Ian Rowan said the Sarina community had been incredibly generous.
"Pulling together to replace, and more than replace the funds, is just fantastic," he said.
"I have never witnessed anything like this … the reaction in Sarina is unusual, it is out of the ordinary."
Mr Rowan said there was great support for emergency services at present.
"There are a lot of people saying this is a dreadful thing and we will support them," he said.
Queensland Police Service has confirmed a 43-year-old man has been charged with stealing. He will appear in Mackay Magistrates Court on December 9.