An extraordinary contribution to volunteering
For more than 60 years, Jane Power has been volunteering as part of her local community. Her extraordinary contribution and desire to help create a better life for her family and for people with disability is an inspiration to many.
It began in 1958, together with a group of devoted parents, Jane began helping to raise funds to support children with disabilities at Crowle Home. Jane’s son, Bruce Power, who has an intellectual disability, attended the school and lived at Crowle Home until he was 57.
“It’s a journey that many parents made to help our families,” says Jane. “We were very grateful our children were living somewhere they were happy.”
The successful fundraising ventures started by the families at Crowle, saw the creation of not only a book stall, but also a garden centre, annual fete, fabric and needlecraft emporium, and regular community events. The local community contributed generously by donating large amounts of wares and goods in support of the school.
“There were many families who worked hard to raise money for the accommodation and facilities at Crowle Home to support our children,” says Jane. “I ran the book stall and we also had the fete every year. It started out small but quickly grew because of all the community donations we received.”
Following a merge of Crowle Home and Achieve Australia in 2009, Jane worked with the team to help Bruce move into more independent living arrangements in the community. Today, Bruce lives independently with some of his friends who he went to school with at Crowle Home many years ago. Here, he receives 24/7 daily living supports provided by Achieve Australia, including access to the community and the opportunity to follow his individual interests.
Jane says that services for people with disability, and society in general, has changed a lot over the years. “Things have changed dramatically since Bruce was first accepted at Crowle Home. Back then, people with intellectual disability couldn’t do all the things they wanted to because it was considered for younger children,” explains Jane. “But that was absolutely not right. Now if a person with disability has an interest or a passion, they can pursue it,” she went on to say.
It’s also having a strong sense of community and belonging which makes a real difference for many people with disability. “People with disability are more part the community today, too,” says Jane. “This helps people also understand that everyone is different and may not be as fortunate as they are.”
After volunteering at Crowle for many years, Jane went on to work at the popular fabric and needlecraft shop known today as The Sewing Basket. The shop was created by Don and Jo McKerrell, where it began as an annual fabric sale for Crowle Home more than 20 years ago.
Today, the social enterprise continues to grow with three shops in Sydney, and a new location to open this spring on the Central Coast of NSW. Volunteers work alongside people with disability, providing employment opportunities and the chance to join an inclusive and welcoming community.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of The Sewing Basket,” says Manager, David Rafferty. “Not only are our volunteers helping to serve customers and keep the shelves fully stocked, they also play a vital role in mentoring employees with disability. For the people we support, this helps to build important work and life skills for the future.”
Nowadays, Jane has retired from volunteering at The Sewing Basket but her fellow volunteers are continuing her legacy. More than 50 community volunteers, with a passion for sewing, needlecraft and supporting people with disability, are now working across a growing number of shops.
While she may have retired in her official volunteering roles, Jane continues to give generously by donating knitted items to local charities who need it most. She says that anyone thinking about volunteering should find something they love and are passionate about, and just do that.
“I’m doing what I enjoy most now. Anything that helps others is a good thing to do,” says Jane.