A group of Mon Valley women are turning plastic grocery bags into mats that will be distributed to the homeless who need something warm on which to lie.
The community service project being undertaken by the Monongahela and Donora Area Lions Club has grown into a weekly gathering of friends. Each year, a project is picked and information is distributed to area clubs. This year’s project is sleeping mats to be distributed to the homeless.
A group of about 10 meets every Wednesday at the Memory Tree and Yarn Branch in Monongahela to make mats for the homeless. The mats which, are three feet by six feet, are knitted or crocheted with plarn, yarn made from strips of plastic grocery bags. The mats provide a warm sleeping surface and have the added advantage of staying dry on damp ground for those who are sleeping outdoors.
Lions Club President Rosemarie Andrako, Treasurer Michelle Clapsaddle, Chaplain Cathy Waller, along with Janet Gallingani, Dorothy Jackson, Nancy Cole, Linda Kustron, Lois Ruschak, Barbara Dash and Annette Jackson have been working since August to make the mats. Waller said the group includes Lion Club members and friends working together on the project.
“Some of us just make the plarn, which is a huge help,” said Kustron. Plarn is made by cutting plastic bags into circular rings and looping them together to create a strand, which is then knitted or crocheted to form the mats.
“Knitting the mats is very hard on the hands,” she added. Clappsaddle and Andrako agreed and said they have broken several knitting needles and crochet hooks during the process.
The group has completed one mat so far, which took about three months to do. Waller said the group has a goal of seven mats. As the mats are finished they will be collected and distributed.
Andrako said that the club and its members are always working toward some type of community project. Waller said she and a few friends bought Thanksgiving dinner and delivered it to a family in need in the community.
Andrako said that the club has taken a young school student under its wing and is looking to bring him into the club as a cub member. “He helps us out at various events. We hope to be able to help guide him.” Waller said, “It takes a village to raise a child, we are his village.”
Clapsaddle said that the Wednesday community service project is more than just working on a homeless mat. “We are friends working towards a common goal, but we also help each other as friends,” she said.
Waller joked said it is part friendship and therapy session. “We talk about books, current events, movies and problems. We talk about how to solve the problems. We listen to each other and help each other out.”
The group is collecting plastic grocery bags and is already looking forward to next year’s project , which will be to recycle about 40,000 plastic bags into two park benches, one for Monongahela and one for Donora. The bags will be sent to a recycling company that will form them into benches.
Anyone interested in helping with the community service project is welcome to come to Memory Tree and Yarn Branch, 1015 Chess St. Monongahela, on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Bags may be donated to the same address for both projects.