Florida woman organizing effort to help Australian wildlife affected by fires

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FIEL – In this image made from video taken on Dec. 22, 2019, and provided by Oakbank Balhannah CFS, a koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in Cudlee Creek, South Australia. Thousands of koalas are feared to have died in a wildfire-ravaged area north of Sydney, further diminishing Australia’s iconic marsupial, while the fire danger accelerated Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019 in the country’s east as temperatures soared. (Oakbank Balhannah CFS via AP, File)

WELLINGTON, Fla. (WMBB) — As wildfires continue to burn in Australia, a Florida woman has organized a statewide hub for Floridians who want to help craft items for animals affected by the fires.

This photo taken in early January, 2020, and provided Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, by Dana Mitchell from the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park shows a rescued koala injured in a bushfire in Kangaroo Island, South Australia. (Dana Mitchell/Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park via AP)

The Associated Press reports The Insurance Council of Australia says insurance claims are reaching 700 million Australian dollars ($485 million).

Sylvia Prochilo Ermansons lives in Wellington and is the hub organizer for Florida. She started the Florida Rescue Crafters Connect group, which is a subgroup of the American Rescue Crafters Connect Facebook group.

Prochilo Ermansons owns a business where she knits items for newborn photographers and says someone tagged her in the American group asking if she’d be willing to help knit for the animals.

“I love animals and I love making what I make for babies, it’s so gratifying to see them on babies and the thought of helping hurt animals, it just really appealed to me,” she said. “That’s why I jumped in.”

The Facebook group has patterns for knitters and crocheters to follow. There are simple items, such as joey pouches, that can be made with a cotton pillowcase. There are also more complex items such as sweaters for kittens and sheep.

(Paula BK/Photo Courtesy)

Since its creation on January 5, the Florida group has more than 150 members.

“I just can’t believe how fast this is growing [nationwide],” Prochilo Ermansons said. “I’m thrilled because I saw these horrible stories about the fire … I’m really happy that I can help even in this small way.”

Prochilo Ermansons has also heard from people in Puerto Rico and Cuba who want to send items to Australia as well.

Once items are collected, they will be sorted to assure the items meet Australia’s standards.

“They have a very high standard of what they need for the animals, like certain items that are going on animals with burns have to be 100% cotton or wool and things like that,” Prochilo Ermansons said.

With over 39,000 members in the American group, the Florida group has administrators to sort through the information to post in the smaller group.

Some of the items requested from the Australian group have already been filled. Prochilo Ermansons says she plans to keep the group going after Australia is helped and help local rescues who help wildlife and other animals.

To see the patterns and find out where you can mail items, visit the Facebook group.

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