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York County residents are banding together with knitting needles, yarn and fabric to create handmade crafts for animals affected by the Australian wildfires.

Products such as joey pouches, koala mittens, bird nests and bat wraps are being made and collected all over the Northeast and shipped out by the hundreds to Australian nonprofits. 

"I wanted to help out in some way, because I kept seeing all the Facebook posts about all of the injured wildlife animals," said Stephanie Hall, the southcentral Pennsylvania liaison for the group American Rescue Crafters Connect.

The Australian wildfires, which have raged since September, have killed an estimated 1 billion animals, World Wildlife Fund officials said. 

Hall, of Mount Wolf, has quickly became a "hub" in York County and began communicating with other local residents to gather supplies and items. She received hundreds of messages from interested volunteers.

 "It has been crazy," Hall said. "I literally spent the whole day on my phone (Tuesday), all day and all night." 

Hall has crocheted a few items for the cause, but she primarily coordinates with residents in the southcentral Pennsylvania area and receives the items needed in Australia.

She ships the items to the American Rescue Crafters Connect location in Lewisburg, Union County. From there, the items are shipped to Australia. 

Through contacts with several airlines and military personnel willing to help, the items are being shipped to Australia at little or no cost, Hall said. 

Right now, the items most needed for animals are joey pouches and hanging pouches. All items must be made with 100% cotton or wool and contain zero trace of synthetic fabrics, such as nylon or polyester. 

Hall said these pouches are used by volunteers in Australia who act as "surrogate mothers" for baby animals that have lost their own mothers in the wildfires. 

"It gives them that feeling of security and comfort," Hall added. 

Interested residents who don't know how to knit or crochet are still able to help by donating supplies, including yarn or needles, to other crafters, Hall said.

Hall said the best way to reach her is either on Facebook or via email, hallstephanie381@gmail.com.

"I'll keep doing it as long as there's a need for it," Hall said. "It's just for the animals, to see what we can do to help them." 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

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