SIDNEY — Christian Academy Schools is collecting grocery bags which will have a new use: mats for the homeless.
Gayle Kearns has been making mats for the homeless for the last six years. She works on the mats for the homeless with a group at the Greenville United Methodist Church on the fourth Saturday of the month. The members of the group fluctuate, with members coming and going. There have been people as young as 10 come to help with the mats.
“We have physically handicapped, teenagers working for extra school credit, other outreach groups, and more show up,” said Kearns.
The group makes a variety of products to give to the homeless.
“Our group also makes scarves and hats for the homeless. We can always use yarn. Some of the ladies crochet stuffed animals out of the yarn. These go to children in hospitals. Some mats and animals go to Guatemala to teach the poor how to make these projects so they can sell them for money to live on,” said Kearns.
The mats are the result of a lengthy process. The bags are checked to make sure there are no holes then they are flattened. Next, the tops and bottoms are removed. All bags with holes along with the scraps are recycled. The next step is to cut the bags horizontally into 3-inch pieces. These are tied together and rolled into a ball. This ball is called “plarn.” Now, the plarn is ready to be crocheted.
“You crochet the plarn into mats, backpacks, purses, or whatever you are working on. A mat should be wide enough and long enough for a male or female to lay on. These mats dry quickly, are easy to roll up and be taken with the homeless, and provide some protection from the cold,” said Kearns.
Kearns normally uses her time making the plarn. She takes bags of bags to the group and comes home with many already cut. She opens these pieces and ties them end-to-end before rolling them into balls to take to the group so someone can use them to crochet.
The lone male in the group, Harold Graham, spends his time cutting the bags with a paper cutter. This allows the process to go faster.
Graham also built a loom the group could use to make the mats. It takes four people to use, so the group can only use it when enough volunteers attend.
One mat requires 500 to 700 bags depending on the size of the mat and a person’s stitch size.
“Not everybody is called to do mats. However, after reading this article, if you or a group of you are interested in learning more, or in donating bags or yarn, please feel free to get in touch with me. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or call 937-658-3235,” said Kearns.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.