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Fire Down Under

Alumna raising funds to help those affected by Australia’s ‘Megafire’

Australian native and Bridgewater State University alumna Melany Heather (Ferber) Stoppenbach is organizing a fundraiser to help wildlife affected by the ongoing bushfires that have destroyed more than 1.5 million acres in her homeland.

The 2003 graduate and her husband, Chris, live in Scarborough, a suburb in south Australia. They have been exposed to the smoke of the so-called Megafire, but are not in danger. The couple does, however, have family members living in Victoria and New South Wales who have been affected.

Chris Stoppenbach, originally from upstate New York, works as a firefighter in Brisbane and has been deployed twice to help fight fires in New South Wales.

“We are proud of him and all of the firefighters and emergency service workers, but it also leads to a few sleepless nights until he gets home,” said his wife.

There are many volunteers working around the clock without pay to protect lives and property, she added.

“We are some of the extremely fortunate and lucky ones.”

Through a Go Fund Me campaign, Stoppenbach is seeking items and funds to aid animal rescue organizations in New South Wales and Victoria, areas that have been hardest hit by the fires.

Stoppenbach attended BSU as part of a student exchange program; she earned a degree in communication studies with a public relations minor.

“I was also a resident advisor for three years, which is probably where I gained the necessary skills and became interested in organizing fundraisers and helping local community organizations,” she said.

Stoppenbach is collecting items that include antiseptics, burn ointments and creams, first-aid supplies, feed and bottles to assist injured and devastated wildlife populations.

“We will also be purchasing items for the caregivers of the animals, some of whom have lost homes and belongings themselves,” she said.

Stoppenbach said there many fundraisers and organizations looking for assistance.

“The need continues to be great,” she said. “It would also be great to get across to people that Australia is a country that relies heavily on tourism, which directly helps the economy, people, cities and our animals. So, if anyone is planning a trip, keep those plans, don’t cancel.”