Ladies creating sensory blankets & boards for Fernhill School

Recently we have been inspired by the wonderful ladies from the Taste of Everything Workshops for Women (TOE) and have had the pleasure of chatting with Linsey, one of the coordinators and members of the group.  TOE has been going for over 8 years and came from a desire to create an inclusive group for women to try new arts, crafts, and activities but above all to increase connections in the community creating a place for women to feel comfortable, safe and to build friendships. All these years later TOE is just that. TOE is made up of a group of 10 to 15 ladies who have become great friends.  The ladies are always keen to help each other where they can, with quite a few who get together outside of the group for other activities.

The group is now self-sufficient with members from the group, Martha and Linsey taking on the coordination of TOE, of course with contribution from all members of the group.

I asked Linsey how she would describe this group to someone who has never been, and she replied, “Very welcoming, there is no pressure to do anything you are not interested in doing. We welcome new ideas, have lots of friendly banter and we always have morning tea no matter where we are! We have a lady in a wheelchair who joins in with us & another who comes along occasionally so mobility is not always an issue if they have a carer. Some of us knit, others sew & some just do their own project, whatever they feel comfortable with & if they want to learn new skills we try to help.”

One of the groups favourite activities is going ten pen bowling. Linsey told us that this is because the group “have a wonderful time, lots of giggles, encouragement and because most of us are older we use ramps and bumpers!”

The group also loves going on a variety of bus trips. The group have had a bus trip once a term but are hoping to increase this to twice per term. For the next trip the ladies are planning to go to Mt York to enjoy the Postman’s Run from Brooklyn. Some of the amazing places they have been to already include, Harper house at Berrima, Tulip Tops past Goulburn, Vaucluse House, and Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens.

One of the wonderful things about this women’s group is the great friendships that have been formed. It is an opportunity for the ladies to get out of the house and has helped them to make connections with the Penrith Community.

As well as the group providing opportunities to socialise, try new activities and see new places, the ladies from this group have become aware of the needs in the Penrith community and have jumped on many opportunities where they can help or contribute to a number of causes.

In just the last year, the ladies have donated different items from snacks to lip balm to the parent’s room at the Ronald MacDonald House, they have gathered donations of good condition handbags filled with ladies essential items for the Bunnings Handbag Appeal, and raised $1100 for cancer research by holding a big morning tea at Martha’s home. For this, Martha asked for donations from local businesses and clothes from community and these were auctioned off.

Outside of this group, Linsey, Martha and another amazing lady, Beryl, volunteer their time every Tuesday at Fernhill School, a public special needs school. Martha and Linsey have been volunteering at Fernhill since the first month this school opened, 3 years ago. Martha is a close neighbour to Fernhill and called in to offer some sensory blankets that the group had made and asked if there was anything else, they could do and have been volunteering there ever since. Beryl joined Martha and Linsey at Fernhill 18 months ago, 6 months after she arrived from the UK. From this, she joined the Taste of Everything Workshops for Women group. Beryl is 81 years young and is such a great contributor. The ladies help out the teachers and staff with tasks such as laminating, cutting, sorting, supervising swimming and have covered so many books in contact that they have lost count! They have really helped out by organising the school’s resources hub, putting bar codes on items, labelling and logging them into the computer. The ladies love to help out and this also gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and keep their minds active. Linsey explained, “We see how dedicated the staff are and how much they appreciate our help, so it is not a difficult decision to go there every week, besides, they give us a great morning tea!”

Most children who attend Fernhill are non-verbal and learn through sight and touch. As a public school, Fernhill has limited access to funds. TOE have recently been successful in obtaining a rolling grant from Penrith City Council, to create sensory blankets and boards for the students at Fernhill School, after putting out a questionnaire asking what would be of benefit to the children and the teachers. From this TOE have created their new project, ‘A sense of giving,’ where they will be creating all kinds of sensory items, plus some little surprises for the students which will be presented in November.

Linsey told us that, “It is a beautiful school with wonderful, caring staff and we wanted to help them in any way we could do, so this was an obvious choice, along with our weekly contributions.”

All women are welcome and invited to participate in A Sense of Giving. No sewing skills are required.

Not only are the ladies doing so much for the community, they are also doing things for their own enjoyment and mental health. The group is involved with Neuralmoves at Thornton which will be on display at various contributors’ venues from October. They have been making fingerless mittens and mats for dementia patients at Thornton.

They have researched, designed and sewn a quilt celebrating women from Nepean Valley who have made significant contribution in various fields from the part and present, and this hangs proudly in the Floribunda Community Centre where they meet each week.

The group have made dog and cat blankets, and hammocks that were donated to the Townsville flood relief.

Just yesterday the ladies helped bake muffins to give to the students who attend our Breakfast Club at Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre.

Toe already have some ideas in the pipeline, for what they could do with a rolling grant for another worthy group next year.

Impressively Martha and Linsey from the group have even received recognition from the NSW State Government with a certificate for their volunteering, as well as a mention in State Parliament by our local member, Tanya Davies. This was an unexpected, pleasant surprise for these two ladies, and we could not think of anyone more deserving.

In Linsey’s own words, ‘We don’t do it for the accolades but for a sense of community and satisfaction.”

If you are interested in joining the ladies at Taste of Everything Workshops for Women, we encourage you to come along and check it out. A sense of Giving will be running in term 3 and 4, if you would love to get involved please contact Martha on 0414 557 062 or Linsey on 0448 975 724 to register.


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