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Posts Tagged ‘Bag Ladies with a Cause’

Photo: Robin Bukson/ Detroit News
“Bag Ladies with a Cause” crochet plastic bags into sleeping mats for people experiencing homelessness. An actual home would be better, of course, but they do what they can.

I’ve been doing this blog daily for more than nine years, and sometimes in covering an activity that seems hopeful, I’ve overlooked a possible downside — or I learn later that things have changed. I try my best to add an update to a previous post so as not to have misleading information out there in the world.

The topic for today — turning unwanted plastic bags into sleeping mats for homeless people — was written up a year ago at the Detroit News and, according to Facebook, is still going strong. I’m drawn to the idea of doing something useful with the scourge of plastic bags, and I like the idea of giving people experiencing homelessness something they might want. For sure, it would be better to give them homes, so that’s an obvious downside. But I like that the self-named “Bag Ladies with a Cause” are really trying to help. Read about the initiative and let me know what you think.

Jocelynn Brown started her report at he Detroit News admitting, “Whenever I throw away a good, clean plastic bag, I’m always overcome with guilt, knowing there are groups like ‘Bag Ladies With a Cause’ that are putting them to good use as a way of making a difference in the lives of homeless individuals.

“Donna Harki of Lincoln Park and Jeannine Ayers of Wyandotte had worked with two groups … helping them turn plastic bags into what’s referred to as ‘plarn’ (plastic yarn), and then using it to crochet sleeping mats that would later be distributed to persons living on the streets of Detroit. …

“Word about the group got out. … ‘We just ask them for whatever free time they have,’ said Harki. … ‘It only costs your time, and we try to make the process fun, and keep them (the bags) out of the landfills.’ 

“Not everyone in the group is a crocheter, but everyone has a skill that will help with the assembly line-like production. …

“Each finished mat measures approximately 6 feet long by 3 feet wide, and it takes 700 bags to make just one. Additional plarn is used to crochet a strap that’s attached to the mat so it can be rolled up and carried as a backpack. …

“Harki has cranked out close to 100 mats in the past two years. She recently made one with a pocket attached at one end, which becomes a pillow when stuffed by its owner with maybe a shirt and pair of socks. If she already has the plarn, she said she can crochet a mat in a week, if she works on it every night. 

“How is plarn made? First, the plastic bag should be neatly flattened into its original shape with creases, folded twice length-wise, and then the handles and bottom are cut off. The remainder of the bag is cut into 3-inch wide strips/loops and then looped together, as you would rubber bands.

“A size Q crochet hook is used to crochet the mats, and in terms of bags used for making the plarn, Harki said, ‘We use any plastic bags, as long as they’re clean. … We (also) have an academy school in [Brownstown] that collects bags for us. … We had a fifth grader (from Summit) crochet her own mat! …

” ‘We deliver the mats. So far, we have given (to) ChristNet (in Taylor), a band of churches who alternate helping the homeless with (the) cold. We also have donated to FDDR (Feeding Detroit & Downriver) … an organization that feeds the homeless six days a week, year round. They know who sleeps outside, so they know who to give them to.’ ” More at the Detroit News, here.

Want a children’s book about women in Africa who’ve making good things out of plastic bags for years? Check out One Plastic Bag, by Miranda Paul, here.

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