06 April 2009

Handing out donated quilts to Victorian Bushfire Survivors

This morning Jan & Ray Mac arrived with their car jammed packed with quilts.
I had the back seat, boot and trailer of my statesman stuffed with more quilts that have come in from across Australia. Our first stop was the Upper Plenty primary school where 25 quilts were left for families affected by the recent bushfires. Next stop, Whittlesea secondary, 18quilts to be added to the ones that Christina Kuhne had dropped last week. It was then up the mountain to Kinglake. We were racing against time and weather. Dark grey clouds were rolling in and I was concerned about the quilts on the trailer.
It was my first time up the mountain since the fires and it was quite emotional driving past the road where our friend’s houses once stood. A lot of the paddocks had a tinge of green and it was a stark contrast against the hundreds of black upright trees. Some trees have started to sprout new growth, which almost looked like they were growing mould. Bales of hay were dotted throughout the bush, left there by animal welfare for food for any wildlife that has returned. I even spotted two large cockatoos sitting in a blackened tree. Our next stop was Kinglake Central primary school. This school has actually been burnt to the ground but portable classrooms have been set up in the car park of the Kinglake football ground. As we pulled up a number of kids came racing out to help carry the quilts in. We left approx. 165 for students and teachers. There was one particular beautiful machine embroidered quilt, which one of the staff asked if they could take for the mother of a student who had perished in the fires. The principal was so overcome with emotion she had to retreat to the office so that the kids didn’t see her. Their plan is to distribute these quilts after the Easter break but going on the reactions of the kids I don’t think they would be able to keep them away for that long. We then drove further on into Kinglake shopping area and called into the pub to get directions to the Kinglake primary school. It was good to see a number of people in there having lunch.
At Kinglake primary we were invited to stay for their assembly. The quilts were put into age groups and as the kids came in, they got to choose one for themselves. Teachers also got a quilt and they took one for the kids who are no longer able to come to the school. (About 120 quilts in total) It was wonderful to watch the kids sit with their new quilts, patting them, looking at the patterns & shapes and reading the labels. My heart melted when I saw “Nicky” with his quilt. He is a preppy who is about 3foot if he is lucky and weighs maybe 10kg! His family lost their house in the fires. He chose a flannel quilt, which he promptly screwed into a ball and sat down on the floor with. The quilt was so big that he could hardly hold it. I then watched him patting it and by the end of the assembly he was resting his head on the ball. I think if we had been there much longer he would have fallen asleep. Some of the mums arrived with toddlers so I was able to sneak out to the car and get some smaller quilts for them. They were so excited because the big kids got one and now they had one too! While we were here the heavens opened up and it began to pour with rain. The teachers were so pleased that every child in the school received a quilt because they said some resentment was starting in the community regarding who was receiving what etc. A male staff member selected a handquilted quilt from Lisa Walton of Dyed and gone to heaven. He was so impressed by the colours and thought it just a bit different to the other quilts. He was going home to try to track Lisa’s web site down. The icing on the cake was when I was leaving the school. The rain was pelting down and three boys were walking home with their new quilts protecting them and their bags. I picked them up and drove them to their driveways. At least their quilts were being used! A slow trip back down the mountain as the road is notoriously dangerous in inclement weather. Once in Whittlesea I called into a friend to have a cuppa and regain my composure. She had homes for another five quilts in the car.
Last week I was able to give 50 quilts to families in the Wandong/Kilmore area and two craft groups in Flowerdale and Kinglake received goodies donated by ladies in the West and NSW. That is a total of about 350 quilts to date.

If you are wondering whether all your hard work has been worth it….. a
resounding YES! Thank you quilters of Australia.

Now restocking for Kinglake West primary for delivery after Easter

Rhonda Coates
Windermere Quilting