Bushfire recovery funds help Drake rebuild

Drake's sewing circle is leading a revival of the community hall, thanks to Vinnies bushfire recovery funding and donations from an anonymous Vinnies volunteer.

Oddly, this hamlet between Casino and Tenterfield gets its name from the 16th century English sailor Sir Francis Drake who circumnavigated the world but came nowhere near the NSW far north coast.

Despite a confusion of names over the years, including ‘Fairfield’, after a local property, Timbarra, and the Aboriginal name of ‘Wattum birrabin’, meaning flying gliders, the township settled on Drake, after the County where it was located.

The surrounding countryside was hit hard by the bushfires of 2019/20, with homes, properties and livelihoods shattered. Vital to helping restore the community’s spirit has been the support of organisations such as Vinnies, which has provided more than $20,000 worth of assistance from our community bushfire recovery grants programs.

The funding has enabled the purchase of two large capacity water tanks and air conditioners, plus ten sewing machines and storage cupboards to help the rebirth of the popular Drake Sewing Circle, a fine example of the adage that “a stitch in time saves nine”.

Like the other activities based at Drake’s community hall, which was hand-built out of local timbers and mud bricks, the Circle shut down because of the bushfires, and then COVID-19.

In the process of administering the grant money our Richmond region President Michael (Mick) Albany mentioned the sewing circle to one of his members in Ballina, a woman known for her sewing skills but whose eyesight was failing. 

“This kind soul, who insists on remaining anonymous, offered to donate all her sewing materials to the Drake group,” Mick recalls.

“I thought this would amount to a couple of cardboard boxes, but it turned out to be, quite literally, a truckload.”

The scrap materials and equipment had been collected over twenty years, during which time the donor ran a successful haberdashery business and never let scraps go to waste. Mick Albany borrowed a truck from Vinnies recycling centre in Goonellabah, loaded up the donations and headed off to Drake where the sewing circle was set to resume making repairs and alterations, quilting, general family sewing and crafting goods for sale in the local market.

The Society’s bushfire funds have also enabled the re-flooring of the craft gallery at the multi-purpose Drake Village Resource Centre, costing $3,575. The previous floor was collapsing, threatening the only outlet for the paintings, jewellery, woodwork and other creations by talented locals.

“Our mission is to provide the community of Drake with the resources for each individual to realise their own potential,” read the centre’s funding submission.

Progress Association president Roger Turner expressed the community’s gratitude to Vinnies for our valuable support: “Without these grants it would take much longer to give the hall the upgrades it needs, and to enable the gallery at the DRVC to be back in business.”