Headmaster hailed as hero

Nelson Mail - 4 January 2000

Nelson College and the Salvation Army came to the rescue of more than 100 wet and weary people who left The Gathering with nowhere to sleep.

Nelson Salvation Army officer Graham Medland said Nelson College headmaster Salvi Gargiulo was "absolutely marvellous" in opening the college to the wet and weary visitors - and personally driving them to their shelter.

He said the Salvation Army had been asked by St John Ambulance to help, and set up a base at its Rutherford St church. They were unsure how many people to expect and when they would arrive. Throughout Sunday night until 1am yesterday, more than 100 people arrived by bus and the Salvation Army provided bread, baked beans, tea and coffee to most.

Mr Medland said initially they rang backpacker hostels and motor camps to find accommodation, but they were all full. He then contacted Mr Gargiulo who said the college could take some. "Salvi was absolutely marvellous," said Mr Medland. "Not only did he make these facilities available, he drove back and forth between the church and the college to transport these people. We were still doing it at 1.30am."

The college ended up with 130 people staying at Barnicoat House, Fell House and on mattresses on the gymnasium floor. Mr Medland said the visitors were grateful to get their first hot shower in three days. "They came in all wet and grumpy, and I would have been too if I'd been to a dance party and spent three days knee-high in mud."

Mr Medland said his initial reaction had been to ask "how can this happen?". But that was quickly taken over with his concern for sorting out somewhere for the college and university-aged people to stay. "That's far more important than 'how did it happen?'," he said.

"Who would have known that it would rain so much? The organisers did what they could to warn people to take warm clothing." [see note 1 at end of article]

Mr Medland said it would have been difficult if the college had not taken in the visitors. "We were thinking of putting out an appeal on radio for people to open up their homes when, fortunately, the college helped."

Laura Basham, Nelson Mail, 4 January 2000

WebEd's comments

note 1

We'd like to thank Nelson College, the headmaster Salvi Gargiulo and his wife, the Salvation Army, police, Red Cross and St John's for their help. We're glad that Mr Medland realised that unfortunately, the weather is something that The Gathering cannot control. We're also grateful for his acknowledgement that we did everything we could to advise Gatherers to bring warm and waterproof clothing.

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