This article first appeared in the print edition of The Bay Post on 23 September 2020.
A purpose-built wheelchair accessible bus to replace one destroyed in the bushfires is now on the road in the Eurobodalla Shire.
Rixon's Bus Service, Mogo, secured a $87,000 grant to buy the new bus after fire swept through the village on New Year's Eve.
The Business Council of Australia's bushfire recovery charity, BizRebuild, provided the funds and representatives were in Mogo on Tuesday, September 22 to mark the moment.
Chair Sir Peter Cosgrove praised the determination of bushfire-devastated businesses.
"Business is the glue that keeps communities together," Sir Peter said.
"Whether it is bushfires or a global pandemic, we need businesses to pull through and keep communities alive."
BizRebuild said it stepped in to assist elderly, disabled and disadvantaged South Coast locals after their only private wheelchair accessible transport service was lost.
"For some aged care residents, the loss of the bus meant they had no way to visit the outside world," a spokesperson said.
"The new vehicle can accommodate up to eight wheelchairs. It means Rixon's can resume its door-to-door services transporting people to medical appointments, taking them on nursing home day trips, and providing the only disabled transport service between the South Coast and Canberra."
Picture: Mal Rixon. Source: Bay Post
The last 12 months have not been easy for Mal Rixon.
He pushed through the business struggles in December, when fires shut the Kings and Princes Highways, and he was robbed.
On New Year's Eve, Mr Rixon faced a fire storm and fought to save his Mogo home. He lost buses, business offices, vintage cars, caravans, machinery, computers and office records in the blaze.
It took Mr Rixon three months to recover from inhaling fumes.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a mass decrease in customers with tours cancelled and many people unable to travel.
He said JobKeeper kept his staff afloat and it was important to reach out to mental health services.
Receiving the bus was "heartwarming" in a tough year.
"It has revived our spirits and given us purpose and a renewed desire to carry on and improve our service to the community," Mr Rixon said.
Mr Rixon said services could now be improved.
"We can now expand travel opportunities to clients and nursing homes, enabling people with mobility needs to attend medical appointments, social gatherings and group outings,'' he said.
The Manor Retirement Village manager Brett Hood said the bus service would be a great asset to the community, particularly for aged care residents with mobility issues such as Parkinson's disease.
With the bushfire season underway, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said BizRebuild would continue to help business "bounce back and importantly give the hope they need to come out stronger on the other side''.
"BizRebuild is here for the long haul to help fire affected communities who have been hit with the double whammy of COVID-19," Ms Westacott said.
"Ensuring businesses can rebuild is critical to the nation's economic recovery.''
The Business Council set up BizRebuild in the wake of the bushfires to help small and local businesses get back on their feet. This is critical to assisting communities to recover and rebuild.
BizRebuild is supported by Business Council members and the business community.
It has helped more than 1200 bushfire-affected cases, including distributing more than $1.2 million worth of vouchers to 930 businesses to replace tools and equipment.
BizRebuild established a pop up mall in Mogo to house up to 10 local businesses and the Mogo Local Aboriginal Land Council, who lost their premises, equipment and merchandise on New Year's Eve.