For our Australia Day Celebration, we invited Jan-Maree Ball OAM as our Guest Speaker. Jan-Maree had a fascinating story to tell starting with her time in the defence force and then her realisation that our defence force personnel need the feeling that they are supported back home, particularly when they have been injured. So she began Aussie Hero Quilts with the aim of supplying a laundry bag and quilt to every defence force person overseas.
Following her talk and quilt showing, the club presented her with our Australia Day Merit Award. Jan-Maree thanked the club on behalf of the approx. 200 quilters she has scattered around Australia.
It was time for the guest speaker, and David Firth introduced Jan-Maree Ball. She gave quite a lengthy, stimulating and humbling talk on her involvement with Aussie Hero Quilts, and the amazing volunteers who have helped to produce the many quilts sent around the world, some of them personalised for specific defence force personnel. Jan-Maree explained in detail the origins of Aussie Hero Quilts and who they were sent to and where they were sent. Not only quilts, but also laundry bags have been sent to many countries to defence personnel serving and continuing to serve in various capacities.
Jan-Maree illustrated her talk with a powerpoint presentation which provided photos of both the quilts and laundry bags and also many of the recipients. She gave a number of moving stories of defence personnel who reported how encouraging it was to receive a personal gift while serving so far from home and family.
She recounted how she came on the idea of the quilts. She heard of an Australian army casualty in Afghanistan who was flown to a US military hospital in Germany and there he received a quilt from America, the same as all the American servicemen in the hospital. She decided that in future all Australian servicemen injured should have a quilt. Aussie Hero Quilts and Laundry Bags started from there - she had photos of the first recipient and his quilt. She concluded her talk with a display of quilts and laundry bags which she had brought with her. She was assisted throughout the presentation by one of her quilter friends, Bev Fairbairn.
In response to questions, she explained that this is an entirely volunteer organisation operating from her home but with quilters dotted around the country. Much of the fabric is donated by the quilters, but they do raise funds for the finishing of the quilts and to purchase some materials.
David Firth proposed a vote of thanks which was warmly supported by the assembled gathering. He then gave a short background to the club’s Australia Day Merit Awards and invited President Jim, with the assistance of DG Kalma and the Hon. Philip Ruddock to announce the 2020 awardee and present the award plaque. Jan-Maree was very surprised to receive the award - “For support to serving defence force members through Aussie
Hero Quilts”. She expressed her thanks and particularly on behalf of her 200+ volunteer quilters. Jim also presented both Jan-Maree and Kalma with flowers.