Chapel Hill Residents Work Together to Create Sleeping Mats for Homeless
Residents at The Chapel Hill Community’s Kroft Commons have teamed up to help those in need, turning plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats for homeless people.
Linda Ditzler, a former United Church Homes board member who still serves on UCH’s Affordable Housing board, learned how to create the mats long before becoming part of the independent living community. She first heard about the mats from a lady who attended her church — the United Church of Christ in Wooster, Ohio — and decided to take a class at the local library to learn how to make them.
Although she had no experience crocheting, Ditzler quickly learned the very simple stitch created with the largest crotchet needles.
She suggested that residents interesting in volunteering join together to make creating the plastic mats a community activity that would help people in need. The project was then added to the list of activities for residents in the community newsletter.
“Lots of residents play a role in the process, including collecting the shopping bags that far too often end up in landfills,” Ditzler said. “Some cut the bags into strips, some weave them together to create ‘plarn’ or plastic ‘yarn’ that others crochet into the mats.”
Each colorful mat is about an inch thick, three feet wide and six feet long, with a strap that makes it easy to roll up and carry. Each mat serves as a waterproof barrier that also helps keep out the cold.
The Kroft Commons volunteers started working on the mats about two years ago. Progress slowed a bit when the COVID pandemic first hit, but the project proved to be a good activity during a period in which it was difficult to find safe ways to work together.
“It takes about a thousand bags to make each mat,” Ditzler said. “So far, we’ve created six mats to donate to a shelter in Massillon [Ohio] that serves people in need. People accumulate these bags and hate to throw them away — it’s a good way to recycle them and it helps others out.”
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