VICSES Kilmore Unit controller John Koutras, left, with unit deputy controller and Bendigo Bank senior branch manager Simon Halman with Bendigo Bank Kilmore manager Kirsty Galea at the unit's headquarters. The bank funded a $25,000 extension to the unit this year through its community grants program.

By Colin MacGillivray

VICSES Kilmore Unit leaders say a $25,000 extension to their Green Street headquarters was a huge aid for volunteers responding to a devastating storm that struck the region last month.

The extension was built with money from Bendigo Bank’s community grants program and completed only weeks before the storm hit.

Unit deputy controller Simon Halman, also the senior manager of Bendigo Bank’s Kilmore, Wallan and Broadford branches, said it had made the unit’s operations significantly easier.

“It has been a significant contribution towards the extension of our current vehicle facilities, which enabled us to … make far more practical use of space within the unit, as well as being able to have our vehicles more appropriately stored and being able to respond in a far more efficient manner,” he said.

“It allowed us to operate more practically from a maintenance perspective as well, particularly with the COVID restrictions and density limits.

“You see a lot of the benefit in not having to open and close manual doors that are very heavy and cumbersome. Now everything is automated and remote.”

Mr Halman said the new extension had improved the unit’s operational capabilities during last month’s wild weather.

“Overall it’s a great outcome in terms of being able to get into vehicles and get out a bit quicker, especially in the case of an emergency,” he said.

“It means we can have a far more effective response in supporting our community. From the SES perspective, without that $25,000 it would have been near impossible to do that kind of work.”

Mr Halman said as Bendigo Bank senior manager, he was proud of the projects the grants program had funded.

“The bank is here to support local groups and support the community where there are opportunities to invest that are going to provide benefit. The SES is one example of many that go on,” he said.

“From the bank’s perspective we are here to support the community through these investment grants and help people achieve things that may not have otherwise been achievable without these funds.”

Mr Halman said the SES unit was searching for volunteers, particularly people who could work during the day.

He said people who were interested could arrange to come to an SES training session with no obligation to join.

“If there are people who work or spend a lot of time in the area during the day and would like to come have a look, we train on Tuesday nights from 7pm,” he said.

“People are welcome to come along or give us a call and speak to [unit controller] John Koutras on 0459 475 514 for any questions or enquiries.”