Sunday, 23 July 2017

A visit to Defence Establishment Orchard Hills

On Friday night I was delighted to be invited to attend the Defence Establishment Orchard Hills Christmas in July Dinner in the Sergeants Mess as the guest speaker. 

The President of the Officer's Mess, George, invited me after having received a quilt I made when he was deployed.   Keryn came with me as she had quilted Geroge's quilt. 

We arrived just before 6pm and set up a display table in the dining room, showing some of our quilts and laundry bags and including postcards and business cards with our information on them as well as four picture books featuring pictures of smiling recipients with their quilts and bags.

There were around fifty guests at the dinner sitting at beautifully decorated tables dressed with white cloths, black napkins and tinsel wrapped candelabra.  Cocktail glasses filled with chocolates and sparkling silverware and glassware decorated the tables.  There were Christmas lights and decorations everywhere which gave the room a wonderful ambiance.

After delicious choice of soups and a sumptuous main of Christmas roast it was time for me to present a ten minute version of the Aussie Hero story. 

This is never a hard task for me but I think it is a little more special to present the story to an audience of serving personnel with their partners and friends.  It gives me the opportunity to explain the meaning behind our quilts in person.  

At the end of my presentation George presented me with a beautiful plaque which includes an Armament Engineering Officer coin featuring Saint Barbara.   

Saint Barbara is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Her association with the lightning that killed her father has caused her to be invoked against lightning and fire; by association with explosions, she is also the patron of artillery and mining.

I was also surprised when Colin, the Chairman of the Sergeants Mess presented me with a donation for Aussie Heroes, a cheque for $500, a very generous gesture from a relatively small base.  Thank you so very much!

After dinner I had the opportunity to talk to two other recipients.   Arriving home from deployment not too long ago, this fellow was thrilled to bits with his quilt and bag.... actually, thrilled is probably an understatement. 

This is George with his quilt. We became friends whilst he was deployed and I got to know enough about him to make sure that every piece of fabric bound by the blue in this quilt has meaning to George and that made it so much fun to make.  I made the quilt top and Keryn quilted it for me so it was lovely to be able to introduce them at the dinner. 

After presenting the plaque to me George then sat next to Keryn at the table and presented her with a coin as well. 

 And finally we met Brett.  His quilt was made by Su and he received it when he was deployed on HMAS Darwin last year.   Brett was absolutely thrilled with his quilt when he received it and was even more delighted when he managed to meet Su on the wharf when Darwin came home from deployment.   To say he thinks his quilt is awesome would be an understatement.  

It is hard for me to convey just how much what we do is appreciated as sometimes it feels a little like I am boasting, but I always say that it is not until a quilter meets a recipient and feels the warmth of the reception in the handshake or the hug.   So often, the recipient's face lights up and becomes animated as they talk about their quilt or their bag.  A number of times I heard Brett describe his quilt as "awesome".   He even loves the back!

There were hugs a plenty last night... yes, again, I had to "take one for the team", well a few actually.  I even got lovely hugs from people who have not received a quilt.  People are genuinely touched by the fact that we do what we do.   One female officer from the Northern Territory came to speak to me  to see how she can make sure that her people are looked after by us but she also wanted to know how they could contribute in her location as well.    

It was such a lovely intimate evening, the reception was so warm, the food was delicious and the company was welcoming.   I know Keryn had a lovely night and for me, personally, I think the evening was one of the most special events I have been to for Aussie Heroes. 

A huge thank you to everyone concerned, especially those who worked so hard to make the dinner such a big success.   A very special thank you for the plaque and also for your kind donation which will enable us to keep doing what we do. 

Thank you.

Till next time... keep spreading the word and happy stitching!

Jan-Maree xx