Here’s an article from the Charleston Gazette about a church group in West Virginia that crochets plastic bags into sleeping mats for homeless people!
Here’s a quote I like from the article: “Once you learn one simple stitch, it’s easily done. Anyone can do it.” And as many people I’ve taught can attest, this is a true statement.
Read full article here.
June 2, 2010
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Melissa Starcher had an overflow of plastic shopping bags in her kitchen, when she heard about a way to recycle the bags for the homeless.
Starcher, a Charleston attorney, was driving to work in November when she heard a story on the radio about a group with the Lutheran Church Charities in Minneapolis who were crocheting plastic bags into large sleeping mats to donate to local charities.
The idea stuck, and Starcher took it to her mother, who heads the Coopers Creek chapter of the Community Education Outreach Service, a program affiliated with the West Virginia University Extension Service and 4-H.
The group of 26 women jumped on the idea. For more than six months, they have been collecting and crocheting plastic bags into sleeping mats.
Last month, they brought 11 mats to the Union Mission in Charleston to be distributed to those in need. Starcher expects missions across the state to see an influx of the plastic mats in coming months.
The project has been selected as the statewide Community Education Outreach Service project for next year, Starcher said. Several church organizations and women’s groups have also picked up the idea, she said.
“It’s a great stress reliever,” Starcher said. “I can knit intricate things. When it comes to crochet, I basically make a bunch of knots. With this, it’s the same thing over and over. Once you learn one simple stitch, it’s easily done. Anyone can do it.”
While crocheting the mats is fairly easy, making them from scratch is an involved process, she said.
Each mat is made from up to about 400 to 700 bags, and it can take up to 100 hours to make an average 3-foot-by-6-foot mat, she said.
The women collect the plastic shopping bags, then cut them into strips that are looped together to create “plarn.”
“Walmart, Kroger and the Purple Onion, you can see them all in [a mat],” said Andrew Beckner, director of development at the Union Mission.
On Wednesday, Beckner and a pastor with the mission drove around Charleston as part of their daily outreach effort to touch base with the homeless in the city, and to pass out the mats.
They gave a large, colorful mat to Karen Sue Alberty on Wednesday afternoon.
Alberty, of Beckley, and her husband live out of their truck, and spent Wednesday afternoon by the Kanawha River sitting in the shade.
“It feels better to sit here in the shade and get out of the sun, instead of sitting in the truck,” she said.
She welcomed the mat, and said she would use it to sleep on or to shade herself from the sun.
She tried out the mat Wednesday, spreading it out on the ground and lying on top of it.
“This feels good,” she said. “It’s nice to get something to lie down on.”
The mats repel water and insects, are lightweight but heavy duty, and will last much longer than cloth blankets, Beckner said. They’re also surprising soft and durable, he said.
“If you get food or dirt on it, you can just shake if off,” Stracher said. “They’re actually washable, you just can’t put them the dryer.”
Cloth blankets don’t last long outdoors, especially in the summer, with the rain and “pests,” Beckner said.
“The good and the bad, is that [the mats are] not biodegradable,” Beckner said.
“We like to say that we were green before green was cool,” he said. “We really feel that God doesn’t throw anything away. God does not throw lives away.”
Since December, the Union Mission has fed more than 133,000 people, and offered shelter to nearly 5,000 men, women and children, according to the nonprofit group’s website.
For information about the shopping bag mats, visit www.ceos.ext.wvu.edu or call 304-293-2796.
Reach Veronica Nett at veroni…@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.