Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Denton program converts grocery bags to mats for homeless
It takes about two weeks and 500 to 700 plastic grocery bags to make one mat.
A local program has transformed the plastic bags tossed aside after a trip to the grocery store into sleeping mats.
M.A.T.S. (Ministry in Action: Transforming Sacks) provides the mats for the homeless of Denton to the homes of Honduras. The program consists of students, churches, and other community organizations who gather plastic bags, cut them up to make “plarn” – plastic yarn – and use the plarn to crochet plastic sleeping mats.
“The ‘mat’ is a water and wind proof layer between a person and the street,” said Jennifer Balcirak, who helped start the program last year. “It’s also soft. Not as soft as a mattress, of course, but softer than the concrete.”
Balcirak graduated from UNT in 2010 with a degree in English and originally gathered her team in the Denton Wesley Foundation on the UNT campus.
“Those living in comfort can overlook the plight of those living in poverty too easily,” Balcirak said. “This is a perfect ministry for college students to get involved in because it is an easy, cheap project that everyone can contribute to.”
Over the past year, M.A.T.S. made 120 to 130 completed mats and gave them to Our Daily Bread, a Denton soup kitchen. It takes about two weeks and 500 to 700 plastic grocery bags to make one mat.
“It’s time consuming for those who make the plarn and the mats, but it was worth it to hand them to the folks at Our Daily Bread and see their reaction,” said Charles Taylor, a risk management and insurance senior and member of M.A.T.S.
Chris Bodie, a history senior, said the project brought all age groups together.
“The project was intergenerational. I’d walk in and see both boys and girls of all ages sitting next to older ladies learning how to crochet,” Bodie said. “Toward the end of the semester a woman came to us with a car literally crammed full of mats. It was a miracle she was able to fit in the car comfortably enough to drive.”
Once the program has enough to fill a POD storage unit, it will send the mats to Honduras with a separate team for a mission trip.
Donations can be brought to the Wesley Foundation, located between Maple Hall and Kerr Hall. The foundation can be contacted at (940) 382-3813.
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