by Jacob Wilson
SERGEANT John Dickinson barely slept for at least five days after Cyclone Debbie hit.
But while there was substantial damage to attend to at his Whitsunday home, his first priority in the direct aftermath of the cyclone was helping others.
Sgt Dickinson, who runs the Whitsunday PCYC, ensured the club operated as a make-shift Evacuation Recovery Centre, which with the help of the Red Cross and Salvation Army was able to cater food-wise for between 250-300 people including tradies, volunteers and people who lost their homes.
Mr Dickinson said the emotional toll suffered by many in the community was palpable.
"It's a major event and caused a lot of damage and just shows the community spirit and how well smaller communities band together and work together to help each other out," he said.
"At one stage we had someone come from Dingo Beach who collapsed here at the hall and paramedics sorted her out and gave her a meal because she hadn't eaten for a couple of days.
"We were having people coming to the club and breaking down in tears because they lost everything."
The Whitsunday PCYC, which has stood strong since Sgt Dickinson established it in 2002, took a battering from the inside, with himself, Cr Ron Petterson, the PCYC-run Youth Management Team members and parents hard at work for three and-a-half days to tidy up and resolve the water damage.
"There has been talk that from the outside PCYC didn't sustain much damage but when you get inside it's a different picture," Sgt Dickinson said.
"I set the club up from scratch in 2002 and it is pretty disheartening to see."
In light of damage caused to the club, Mr Dickinson said it could take until November before it returned back to normal.
But despite the chaos stemming from the aftermath, PCYC has still been able to organise a range of regular gymnastic activities from the Kipara hall.
Whitsunday Film Musical and Theatrical Society CEO Steve Wickett was one of many in the community who could see first-hand the role "Sgt John" had played in the community.
"Thank you John, and thanks to your amazing team for what you do for our community," he posted on Facebook.
"I know there are many like John, who put on a brave face and are rebuilding their lives, hats off to you all."
Mr Dickinson said he wanted to acknowledge the many other heroes who helped in the aftermath including the Police, Army, Salvation Army, Queensland Fire Service, Whitsunday Regional Council and more.