A Clunes couple whose business was hit by ATM raiders in March have been given new hope after a huge local effort at the weekend.
The community rallied around Craig and Cynthia Drewer with a fundraising evening on Saturday night, after they said they were struggling to keep their business afloat.
It was a beautiful, fun, energetic night, filled with positivity and good will.Steven Hunter, Clunes Tourism Development Association
Held in the Clunes Community Centre near the football ground, the event included a sit-down dinner attended by more than 220 people as well as an auction and a raffle.
A GoFundme page currently stands at almost $6,500, raised to help the popular local residents make ends meet while they wait for restoration work on the property to begin.
There will also be proceeds from the evening's auction, which have not yet been tallied.
Steven Hunter of the Clunes Tourism Development Association was one of the organisers. He said he hoped the funds raised should allow the couple to stay in business for at least three months, and called the event "a beautiful, fun, energetic night, filled with positivity and good will."
"There was fantastic representation from the entire community," he told The Courier. "You could tell that people had really given it their all."
"We are now pushing that we get all the support from the insurers to start the rebuild process and get them back into the building."
Thieves hit the listed shopfront of the newsagency in the dead of the night on March 3 with a front-loading excavator in an attempt to rob the ATM machine.
Three men have since been charged over the ATM raid as well as similar robberies in Lake Bolac, Beaufort, Creswick, Skipton, Dunkeld, Ballan and Queenscliff.
While the criminals were unable to extract the ATM machine, the attempted robbery caused widespread damage to the historic shopfront of the newsagency.
The two adjacent businesses were also affected.
SEE THE DESTRUCTION WREAKED BY THE RAID:
Takings for the newsagency were slashed to 20 per cent of their previous levels in the immediate aftermath of the raid.
While neighbouring businesses were still able to operate from the same premises, the newsagency had to transfer to the Club Hotel on the other side of Fraser Road in Clunes. The change in location limited what the newsagency, which also previously had banking services, was able to offer.
Mr Drewer reported takings are currently down by more than 50 per cent compared to last year, and said in recent weeks they were having to consider their future.
The heritage verandah, its supports and the shopfront of the original premises all require extensive rebuilding and restoration.
Insurance complications mean that the Drewers still have no start date for the repair work to begin despite it being almost four months since the incident. Mr Drewer also said their insurance did not cover them for lost earnings as the result of the attempted robbery.
They had taken over the lease of the shop as a lifestyle choice and had hoped to run the newsagency into their retirement.
Have you signed up to The Courier's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.