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Think Global, Act Local: Lynchburg woman raises money for Australian animal rescue efforts

Lynchburg merchant Barbara Hills hand-crocheted this koala bear. She’s also making hand-crocheted kangaroos. You can purchase one for $20 with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Australian wildlife rescue efforts. {Photo Provided}

In September 2019, fires sparked in the Australian outback. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. The continent does have a brush fire season, after all. But this year was different. A prolonged drought that began in 2017 created tinderbox conditions across the continent and the fires quickly spread. By November, officials in Queensland and New South Wales declared a state of emergency. And the fires just kept spreading. Residents were told to evacuate, public roads were closed, and from space, the entire continent of Australia appeared to be on fire.

For months, stories of loss of life and property poured out of the area. According to The New York Times, the fire’s killed at least 27 people and damaged over 10,000 homes. But one of the most devastating effects of the brush fires is the toll it’s taken on Australia’s wildlife. The continent is home to kangaroos, koala, wallabies, the playpus, wombats, and many other species unique to Australia. Some ecologists estimate that the fires have killed more than a billion animals in the country – and that doesn’t include insects, fish, and reptiles. It’s an ecological disaster.

The story got the attention of one Lynchburg Square merchant, Barbara Hills. The new Jersey native moved to southern, middle Tennesse 20 years ago. She now lives in Bell Buckle and owns Honey Bunny Mercantile just off the Lynchburg Square. In January, Hills decided to think globally but act locally to help the wildlife of Australia. First, she starting sewing pouches and crocheting nests for affected animals. Once those were shipped, she decided to create a couple of Australia-inspired items to sell at Honey Bunny’s with 100 percent of the proceeds going a wildlife rescue fund, which pays for medicine, food, and other supplies for affected animals.

koala tea towels
These koala tea towels will also support Australian wildlife rescue efforts. They are $15 each or $25 for a pair and can be ordered at Honey Bunny Mercantile off the Lynchburg Square. {Photo Provided}

She created a set of handmade tea towels that feature the continent of Australia with a koala bear in the center. Then she decided to hand-crochet both koala bears and kangaroos. Everyday, in her spare time, she uses her talents to help others almost 10,000 miles away from Lynchburg.

When asked why she feels so strongly about helping so far away, Hills gives two reasons. One, she’s always loved wildlife … especially the unique animals of Australia. Second, she says that even though she doesn’t really have a direct connection to Australia per se, she made friends with members of the Australian barbecue team during the Jack Daniel World Championship Invitational Barbecue.

“I did embroider on the shirts of their barbecue team when they came here last year to compete. I have remained friends with a couple of them on Facebook,” said Hills. “I wish I could go there myself to help.”

Hills says she’ll be mailing all donations to the Nescastle Hub of the Animal Rescue Craft Guild in New South Wales, one of the most effected areas. If you’d like to help, you can order any of the items from Honey Bunny’s Mercantile located just off the historic Lynchburg Square. •

{Editor’s Note: The story brought to you by the support of individual subscribers like Jack Evans, Patrick Bobo, and Lee Tolley. Thank you for your support. }

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