Mathew Hatcher has filled a warehouse with donated goods which are regularly distributed to South Coast bushfire victims, but says agencies should be the ones in charge.
The Tomakin resident and others spontaneously set up the South Coast Donations Logistic Team to provide essentials in the desperate days after the New Year's Eve bushfire.
For his efforts, Mr Hatcher was named a joint Eurobodalla Shire Local Hero, with surf lifesaver Anthony Bellette.
However, Mr Hatcher said the idea was always to provide a storage facility for agencies like Vinnies, Salvos and the Red Cross "to do what they're supposed to do".
"I assumed at all times, after three weeks, the big Red Cross tent would be up and they would take all the goods we had and we'd be back at work," he said.
"It never unfolded that way.
"The Army pulled out, on orders, Red Cross is the Red Cross, and we're still here.
"Most of those agencies are gone or they're very limited resources on the ground now."
He said that was not good enough.
"If this was Sydney, they wouldn't have done what they did," he said.
"There was definitely a gross negligence that was done (by agencies).
"I should not be doing this. I shouldn't be sitting in an old warehouse full of goods.
"We're the only group that's still standing, bar other groups like us, like the Cobargo Relief Centre, all these volunteer-based groups.
"They're still going, because they're like us. They're community.
"They don't want to see their neighbour starving. They don't want to see their neighbour sleeping in a tent.
"We don't have the luxury of closing up shop. I can't sleep knowing there are people sleeping in a tent."
Mr Hatcher said RFS did not get the help or resources they needed.
He arrived in Australia from Alabama, USA, 18 years ago, in 2002.
"I've always been a big backer of the RFS. I always thought it strange we have volunteers.," he said.
"Where I'm from, you pay your firefighters. I come here and it's just locals donning on an outfit whenever there's a fire and putting it out."
During the 2018 Tathra fires, Mr Hatcher called for donations on Facebook, then jumped in his coffee van with a mate at 3am, drove down with donated bottled water, bananas, sandwiches and baked cakes.
"My coffee supplier at the time from Sydney donated the coffee, my milk supplier gave us milk, and we went down there for the entire day," he said.
"We drove around where Tathra was closed, providing to the RFS and residents, pulling up to houses and giving away free coffee.
"We made lots of friends through that and since have come back from that and done lots of fundraisers for the RFS.
"It was the first time I'd done something like that. I tried to join the RFS and they said they'd rather I come to the fires and give free coffee because they need it so much."
Mr Hatcher said his team raised $5000 for RFS on Boxing Day, 2019, "and we didn't realise we would need them so much five days later".
On New Year's Eve, Mr Hatcher faced fire near his Forest Parade home.
"I stayed and prepared a fight with a couple of neighbours and we ended up fighting that fire that jumped the road," he said.
The fire kept reignited for several days.
"At night, we had no power," he said.
"We live on coffee so we would drive around late at night, go to the roasterie, have coffee, then drive around and put fires out, up and down the coast.
"We filled 20 water tanks and drive up and down the highway at midnight when there was no power. You would see the trees on fire through the bush and go out and put them out.
"We live in an older community so a lot of people couldn't do what we were doing. We'd never put ourselves in harm's way.
"Those spot fires and trees that had fallen over and were still lit, we wanted to make sure the wind wasn't going to turn that into something more."
Five days later, on January 5, a truck came into Tomakin and dropped about 25 pallets of donations, Mr Hatcher said.
"That got out of control, the police showed up, people were going at it for the best stuff," he said.
"Trucks were coming into the region, going to evacuation centres; the evacuation centres were full, they were going to the surf clubs; surf clubs were full.
"They were coming from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne and they had to get rid of the goods off their truck so they could get home. They were looking for anywhere to dump it."
That's when Mr Hatcher reached out.
"I rang council and they said their position was to turn trucks around, that we had enough goods and they had nowhere to store them, that was the reasoning," he said.
"That was very early stages. I knew we would need them long-term so I put on Facebook that I needed a warehouse or did anyone have an extra space in their warehouse I could store goods in."
Mr Hatcher said a business gave him the key to their warehouse.
"We took 10 pallets. It wasn't a very big one. At the time I thought that was it. I didn't know what that was going to turn into," he said.
"That truck driver told the next truck driver, who told the next truck driver.
"I would get hundreds of phone calls every day of trucks coming in or people wanting to come in from overseas or locally," he said.
He said there were warehouses at Narooma, Moruya, Batemans Bay. There were forklifts, companies and volunteers helping out.
"It quickly grew into what we needed. There's no doubt the region needed this," he said.
"Councils don't run facilities like these, and the need was huge all up and down the coast."
Mr Hatcher said they were topping up the Army, evacuation centres and Anglicare centres with goods.
"After two or three days, everybody said they had enough goods, then were all of a sudden out of goods, and we were now supplying them," he said.
He said the project had grown into "something I never thought would happen".
"At the start, we thought food, water, those are the necessities people need, so we'll get that out there and then it was, people need tents, then blankets, and that was a band aid for a longer term problem," he said.
In the warehouse, there are now non-perishables, toilet paper, used clothing, generators, work tools, white goods and beds.
"We're now doing houses and water security projects," he said.
He said one house was completed in the Bega Valley and there were plans to build houses at Malua Bay, Belowra and Bodalla.
People he met over the past six months needed emotional support.
"I'm in coffee, I'm not in mental health or saving cattle by any means," he said.
"There are so many people on the brink, especially out there in those (rural) places like that.
"They feel forgotten or they just don't get much attention.
"They definitely feel now the help is gone, so we're their last hope."
Mr Hatcher said he struggled at the start of the bushfires, because he didn't lose anything.
"I had a burnt tree about a block away and that was about it," he said.
"I've lived through hurricanes constantly where I grew up, so being without power was a normal thing.
"The hardest thing is being local and these are people I see at Woolies and everywhere I go, I see someone we've helped.
"In the early days, it was very painful to see people queuing up for canned goods who you knew. Two weeks ago they were fine. Now they have no house, no car and they had no insurance. And they didn't even know they didn't have insurance. Their entire world has changed.
"For me, the only thing that's changed is power was out for a week, so this is what I'm able to give back to my community."
He said many locals volunteered, however, it wasn't a good place to relive the experience every day.
"Having people from the outside coming in probably is what kept us going," he said.
"My warehouse manager was from Brisbane. She's moved here to do this, to volunteer. She started out as a donor. She raised enough goods to send two trucks down, and then a shipping container full of goods. Then she decided she wanted to come and do work on the ground. So she decided to stay here until we're finished. She left her business.
"Local volunteers would burn out. They've got to get back to work. We need them back at work. The day-to-day trauma of it is too tough for most people."
He said everyone needed mental health support.
"If you lived here from December, you were fire-affected," he said.
"We need mental health workers on the ground. I don't think hotlines are going to do it.
"Farmers are not going to call a phone number.
"We raised the funds for a mental health unit that's being dropped this week. It's a brand new converted shipping container that's going to be set up for Lifeline or other mental health workers when they come to town to have a safe space to meet people for free and come in any time they want.
"They've got access to it 24 hours a day. That's really what it's going to take, the community staying strong and helping one another. It's a very long process."
The team had little time left to store donations at the warehouse.
"We've probably got two months, three months left," he said.
"Our big concern is now we're going to either have to finish or move into a new place, and that's going to be hard to find, especially for our budget, which is free.
"We don't have help other agencies have.
"If we do have to stop completely, hopefully places like Anglicare, Salvos and places like those have processes in place to continue.
"We're more than happy to give all the goods we have to them, and let them continue the work."
He said the COVID-19 had made it tougher for companies to provide funding.
"They've got to tighten their budgets as well. We'll end up probably having to fold, close up shop, and hopefully agencies will pick up where we left off."
He said there was a need for donations and support for years to come.
"We know there's a demand for long term," he said.
"We know there are still people sleeping in tents or leaking caravans, elderly people.
"If they've lost everything, and they're sleeping on a burnt-out block of land in Nerrigundah, in a tent over winter, that's not acceptable."