Beau King with fiancé Stacey Lyon and fistfuls of grocery vouchers (Photo: Alix Sweeney, Newspix)
Initially, the couple had planned to visit Europe towards the end of the year to accompany Mr King’s kids who had been selected for an elite soccer tournament. Then COVID-19 hit and the trip was cancelled.
So earlier this year they decided to spend the money on Woolworth’s vouchers and give them away to people in Townsville most affected by the pandemic.
They started with forty-five $100 vouchers. Those went in three days. So they bought twenty more. Three days later, they too had gone. They have since bought twenty more and continued until they had spent $8,500 on vouchers.
Now they are providing support in other ways preparing parcels of basic supplies; like toothpaste, toiletries, pasta sauce and rice for people who approach the local Foodbank, giving them reassurance that their support reaches those in most need. They have enlisted others to the cause.
Mr King’s motivation was simple. He wanted to give back to a community that had given him so much.
Mr King spent eight years in the Army, mostly in 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) and served two tours to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. He was medically discharged in 2012, suffering from severe hearing loss incurred in Iraq when his Light Armoured Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. He was also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
While he hails from Brisbane, after discharge he stayed in Townsville, where 2RAR is based. Though it was hard, he puts his successful transition to civilian life down to sport.
‘Sport was my saviour,’ he said. ‘I play touch football and one of my friends — who’s ex-1RAR — owns a gym. They’ve helped me do something else with my life. They’ve never judged or anything like that.
‘[But] now, a lot of our friends lost their jobs like so many and we’re in a position where we can make a bit of difference. We just brainstormed and supermarket vouchers were all we could think of with all the restrictions [relating to the COVID-19 lockdown].
‘We put the money to better use. We can go without a holiday; most people can’t go without a job.’
People got in touch via Facebook. Beau and Stacey provided the vouchers to anyone who needed them, not just veterans, though they were careful to ensure that those who approached them were genuinely needy.
‘We’ve had photos of what people have bought,’ Mr King said. ‘People have left messages in our letterbox. We’re just trying to do the right thing. If we can make a little bit of difference, hopefully others who can do so will do the same. In life, you can’t always take. It works both ways.
He recognises too that the effects of the coronavirus on people’s lives are likely to have a lasting impact, even once the number of cases subsides.
‘It’s not just the pandemic, it’s the aftermath as well,’ he told the Townsville Bulletin in March. ‘Mental health is going to be a big thing.’