Bat pillows, koala pouches, crocheted nests: How one Pa. woman is helping Australia


Fort Collins crafters sewed blanket wraps to send to Australia to assist bats orphaned by the wildfires that have killed more than a billion animals. Wochit

These special clothes aren’t designed to be cute. They are designed to help animals badly burned in the Aussie wildfires.

Australia has been in the headlines a lot the past few weeks regarding the devastating bushfires that have ravaged over 15 million acres across the country.

Videos of koalas, kangaroos and other animals recovering from burns across the country have gone viral on social media.

Melissa Langford believes she has found a way to help.

The quilter and crafter who owns The Sunflower Shoppe in Mercersburg came across Relief Crafters of America through a post someone had shared in her Facebook quilting group.

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The group has grown to over 54,000 members across the United States eager to aid the helpless animals in Australia’s unique ecosystem.

“Before I did this, I was a vet tech for 12 years, so it’s kind of a given for me to want to help animals,” she said.

Langford reached out to her fellow crafters in the area to make items for the animals affected by bushfires to recover. Langford has made pouches for joeys and koalas and her friend crocheted birds nests.

Relief Crafters of America shared free, downloadable patterns for the supplies.

Her favorite item to make so far has been the bat pillows.

“You basically make a burrito out of a bat,” she said. “They stuff them, close them up, put the bat inside and then they roll the bat up so workers can carry it around, feed it and nurse it without it flapping its wings.”

The projects are easy, she said, even for a beginner. Langford, a more experienced sewer, said she could make a simple pouch in just 10 minutes.

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She even picked up some helpful tips from the group. One woman suggested using old t-shirts because the stretchy material makes it easier for the animals to move around inside them.

“Old t-shirts are the best,” she said. “I had just finished making a t-shirt quilt for my cousin and pulled all the scraps – the backs of the shirts I couldn’t use.”

She’s had at least four people reach out to her, and with each one making three to five projects, the donations have added up. Langford herself has already made over a half-dozen various critter cloths.

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Langford set up a small hub at her shop to make it easy for locals to drop off donations. She then sends the homemade items to a larger hub for southcentral Pennsylvania. 

“I think the reason why this program was so successful is that crafters are givers,” she said. “You don’t craft something to hoard it, you craft something to give it to someone.”

Langford said that those who might not have had crafting skills donated money toward shipping costs. She said the group has already raised over $12,000.

The response has been overwhelming internationally. 

“Interestingly enough, they are cutting off donations,” she said. “They’ve gotten so many, which is amazing. So many crafters came together that they had to stop us because they need time to go through everything.”

Australian bushfire relief groups are taking donations until the end of January, according to Langford.

“They’re still taking a lot of joey pouches and liners,” Langford said. “They’re also going to look for local zoos that they might donate any leftover stuff.”

According to the Australian Institute for Disaster Relief, there are still months left in bushfire season.

“Western Australia’s bushfire season runs between November and April in the south west, while the northern bushfire season runs from June to late October,” the website read.

In the meantime, Langford is going to continue to make them – just in case.

“It’s nice that locally some people have gotten together,” she said. “We’ll send it there and wait to see what happens. Rain, hopefully.”

Carley Bonk is a Watchdog Reporter for the Chambersburg Public Opinion. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @carls_marie.

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