Tears well in Peter Williams' eyes. He's talking about the kindness of strangers that rebuilt the old Mogo church which housed his pottery gallery for the past 40 years.
The strangers in the street who slipped him $50 notes. The pottery societies around the world who donated to the GoFundMe appeal.
The people of the small South Coast town who'd lost everything when fire swept through on New Year's Eve 2019 but pitched in regardless to see a familiar landmark returned to their devastated town.
"It makes you really teary. The humanity has been overwhelming," Mr Williams says.
Peter and his wife Vanessa lost almost everything in the fire - their home, their possessions and four decades worth of art.
"It was horrific. That morning we had to run away. You could see the fireball coming. You could hear it. You could smell it. It was 42 degrees at six o'clock in the morning. We packed up a few things and just took off," he recalls.
About a week before the fire, they were told by the Rural Fire Service their home on the same parcel of land probably wouldn't be saved but the church had a better chance of survival.
"Our house went first. We put all our valuables in the church - all our paintings, birth certificates, passports, books and children's stuff and valuable jewellery, clothes. And it went, too.
"They'd wet it down and they thought they'd saved it. They raced to another job down the street. And they turned around and it just ignited. I wasn't there to see it, thank God."
So rushed was their escape from Mogo, Peter grabbed a handful of shoes, only to discover later they weren't pairs.
Both the home, a Batemans Bay church they bought and transported to the site, and old church were uninsured.
"The insurance on them was about $10,000 a year. As potters we couldn't really afford it so we took a gamble and we lost," Mr Williams says.
So traumatised by the loss, the couple's first instinct was to up stumps and leave the district. But after four decades in the town, old connections kept them there.
A temporary mall allowed them to open a small gallery and they launched a funding appeal to rebuild the old church.
"It was a symbol of Mogo, a little icon building. It was part of Mogo's heritage. A lot of local people have been christened and married in it so we thought, 'Damn it, we're not going to build a house, we'll build that building'.
"And also there was self-preservation - once that's built we can start making an income again. Then we'll think about getting a house. So it was our priority to build the church."
Word of the funding appeal flashed around the world and, with some government grants thrown in, almost $250,000 was raised.
Peter and Vanessa Williams enlisted the help of local draftsman Peter Fatches, whose home across the road was burnt down.
The Fatches' daughter Adrienne is married to Earthbuild Constructions builder Peter Jirgens, who cut his apprenticeship teeth on heritage buildings in Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands and leapt at the opportunity to recreate the church.
"This building is quite a prominent landmark. It's visible from the highway; the first thing you see when you enter the town. And it's a formal building of unique significance to the township," Mr Jirgens says.
"When it was gone I spoke to a lot of people who said it just didn't feel right when you drove into town."
Originally built in 1890 from funds collected by the community, all that was left of the old church after the ruins were removed was the granite perimeter base and a steel handrail.
The kiln at the rear of the building withstood the flames, which were so hot, pots left in there were fired.
There were no plans in the Eurobodalla Shire Council archives. So the first challenge presented itself at the drafting stage.
"There was quite a lot of detective work to ascertain the architectural appearance of the building and other considerations like wall heights and window placements," Mr Jirgens says.
The other challenge was working with hardwood.
"Australian hardwood, although it's a beautiful material, is extremely heavy and difficult to work with. This was not like a house made out of painted pine and fibro where you can fill in with No More Gaps. All your cuts need to be really precise and accurate."
As the frame went up and the structure took shape, Mr Jirgens says it generated a sense of rebirth in the town.
"Now seeing it completed with the lights on and everything fully finished, people feel like it's a sense of a new start," he says.
Peter Williams feels the same way, talking about the sense of resurrection after such loss.
"It's a saviour. We were nowhere, we were floundering, and this has given us a base. The community has saved our arses; emotionally ... everything. We feel so grounded now."