It was during fence rebuilding after the Black Summer Bushfires that members from the Rotary Club of Merimbula were made aware that the shipping container housing groundskeeping equipment at the Cobargo Cemetery had been destroyed.
Although the shipping container still stood, all of the equipment inside of it had been destroyed by the fires which came right to the edge of the cemetery.
The grounds of the cemetery are maintained by a community group called Friends of Cobargo Cemetery (FCC) who volunteer to maintain the lawns and some of the graves.
"We didn't know how we were going to replace it, and it was very disheartening, you thought, 'we've worked so hard for so long'," said Mel Britten from the FCC.
"The cemetery was very lucky, I think because we mowed only a few days prior and kept the grass really short. We lost quite a bit of the fence though," she said.
The Rotary club identified the need for new equipment during their fence rebuilding efforts, but could not donate these items without an adequate storage facility, so they dedicated themselves to working with the FCC on finding a solution.
As they were already working with the Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC) to restore cemetery fences all around the shire, they contacted the Council to see if they could secure funding through a grant program.
Funding for the project to restore the shed came from three places $10,000 from fundraising efforts from the FCC, $7,000 from the Rotary Club of Merimbula and $23,740 from the Australian Government under the Drought Communities Programme - Extension, which the Council managed to help secure.
The new shed could not be placed where the original shed had been due to swampy grounds but placing it closer to the graves meant the shipping container would be an eyesore for people visiting gravesites.
The funds collected allowed for a pavilion with two benches to be built and to not only hide the storage shed but to also provide a shelter for extreme weather conditions.
The pavilion was constructed through the help of a number of businesses around the shire who provided affordable materials, or donated time, or expertise.
The rocks which will be used to mount grave plaques, a much more affordable option than a grave site, were donated by South East Regional Hospital.
The funds collected also meant that a gravel road could installed on the site, meaning easier access for cars. A water tank installed at the pavilion will also provide water access on the site.
On Friday, June 25, a handover ceremony was held where the Rotary Club presented the FCC with a new ride-on lawn mower and whipper snipper to replace the maintenance equipment lost in the fires.
They also provided an afternoon tea for those who attended the event.
Councillor Tony Allen, along with Council staff, thanked those involved on the day and said that the project could not have happened without the collaborative efforts of the various organisations involved.
"It has been extremely encouraging to be part of this collaboration," said BVSC cemeteries and halls officer, Katrina Berenguer.
"The new pavilion is a great addition to the site, providing shelter from rain or heat for loved ones and volunteers, and the rock garden provides a quiet place of reflection," she said.