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Jacksonville business hosts craft sessions to help Australian wildlife

Volunteers at Balanced Soul Wellness are making pouches for animals like young kangaroos and koalas that lost their mothers.

More than one billion animals are reportedly dead following Australia's catastrophic fires.

You might have seen the gut-wrenching pictures and felt helpless here in North Florida, but you can help. Women at a Jacksonville business felt that way too and they're taking action by getting crafty.

Stitch by stitch, volunteers at Balanced Soul Wellness are making pouches for animals like young kangaroos and koalas that lost their mothers.

"I was in the front desk and every time I would open Facebook I literally would start crying," said Kellie Turner, the wellness center's co-owner. "From all the different pictures and the different sights, see them. I mean, they're helpless."

That's when Turner and aesthetician Emily Emerson decided to take action.

"We were like, 'what do we do?'" Emerson said. "And so we were like, 'well we have the space in the back, we have a lot of friends, we have a lot of clients, and we'll put the call out and see who answers.'"

More than a dozen people answered the call.

"People came straight from work, 6 a.m., and they were here until nine, after nine," said Emerson.

Getting crafty to help Australia's wildlife is now a global effort, but some Australian groups have asked people to pause their sewing while they account for what they have, saying it may be more helpful to donate money. 

Turner and Emerson were able to find an organization on a Facebook group that still needed pouches and they got to work.

"You have the inner liner which they actually change," Emerson explained, showing a pouch they had to download instructions and get materials for. "It becomes soiled. So we do have to make more of the inner liners."  

But bigger than the pouches is the message that you can always make a difference.

"If people can gather anything from this, I think it's just to realize even if you're crazy busy and kind of scatter-brained like we are you can still organize something to help," said Emerson. "It doesn't have to be animals in Australia. It can be your own community."

On Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., they plan to have another craft session for Australia at Balanced Soul Wellness. 

If you'd like to attend, you're encouraged to bring fabric that's either cotton, fleece or jersey-knit cotton. Find the information for the event here.