Plastic grocery bags usually end up at the landfill, however, Girard Senior Center’s “BEACH” Club found a new purpose for them.
BEACH stands for Being Energetic, Active, Connected and Happy and the group did just what their club stands for and then some.
Over the past several months they have been working on something extra special, all-the-while keeping active, connected and happy. The group was seeking an activity which could help someone else when BEACH member Martha Bass offered the idea of creating mats with plastic grocery bags.
Martha said she read about how people have created mats, sandals, bags and more.
The group reached out to Wesley House and it was confirmed that there was a need for mats for people who are homeless.
“People who are homeless often sleep on the ground,” Wesley House Executive Director and Pastor Marcee Binder said. “As you get older, that doesn’t feel so good on your back.”
The mats can keep people protected from wet soil or grass and are soft and spongy because of the plastic.
There are approximately 40 people who are homeless enrolled in the Drop-in Shelter at Wesley House. People enrolled in the program are allowed to come in from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to hang out, store items in lockers, take showers, do laundry and receive a hot breakfast and lunch. They can also receive mail there.
And so the crafting began.
On a daily and weekly basis, women from ages 60 to 94 crocheted away.
It takes 500 to 700 plastic grocery bags to make one mat.
The whole community and beyond chipped in, bringing hundreds of bags to the center so that they could be crocheted into mats. The BEACH club thanked their community for their support.
The club took the grocery bags which were often wadded up, and hand pressed the seams and cut off the bottom seam and handles. They linked the loops together to create what they call “Plarn,” Volunteer Activity Coordinator Sandi Richardson said.
One mat could take a little over a week to make.
The group was able to provide 15 mats and 15 bags with toiletries and personal care items.
Marsha said knowing people can sleep more comfortably on the mats makes her feel good.
“I didn’t do as much as a lot of people, but helping somebody else, that’s what we’re here for,” she said as her eyes watered. “Helping someone, God wants us to do that.”
Barbara Pride, another BEACH club member, worked three jobs before her retirement. After her husband’s passing she was lonely, she said, and so working on the project gave her companionship and allowed her to stay active.
“This gave me something to do and visit with people, and it makes me feel good,” she said.
“I’m sad that they are homeless, but at least they can sleep on something more comfortable.”
Creating the mats was beneficial to many, another member Sandra Pontious said.
“Like Barbara, I’m retired and I live by myself,” she said. “This gives us something to do, it helps the less fortunate than us, it’s all about giving to your fellow man.
“And we would like to thank everybody who donated bags and gave their time and efforts.”
Sandi praised the club, community and all involved for their dedication to creating the mats.
“They are really excited about doing something for somebody else,” she said. “It’s been a benefit, it’s been wonderful.
“I can’t tell you how much I am blessed watching these ladies do something for somebody else.”
Marcee shared her thanks on behalf of Wesley House and the people who will receive the mats.
“At night time, there is no shelter in Pittsburg, so a lot of our folks are sleeping outside in the elements without sleeping bags and such,” she said. “We can now give them a mat that is made with love, that is tremendous.
“We will also convey to them who made them for them, and they will be just thrilled that someone cared enough.”
The BEACH club has no intentions to stop creating mats though, and other useful items for the homeless.
“When I said we finished our 15 we can move on with something else they said no, no, no,” Sandi said.
Want to help?
The bags must not be soiled or wet.
People can drop the bags off at the Girard Senior Center at 221 S. Ozark, Girard. The center is closed on Fridays but people may leave them at a receptacle created just for the bags, or at the door.
People are welcome to join in on the project — especially if they know how to crochet.
Contact the center to learn how to get involved in mat making or other activities at 620-724-6073