Church members crochet sleeping mats for homeless
By Deborah Ince | Daily Times Correspondent
A group of women from Maple Grove Missionary Baptist Church are making a difference in their community one plastic bag at a time.
One Saturday each month, a group of the church’s female members meets for two hours to crochet plastic sacks into sleeping mats to give to the homeless.
Church member Donna Bowman said it is a simple, cost-effective way to make a difference.
“The mats are lightweight, easy to carry, and they’re manageable,” Bowman said. “There’s even a sling strap so they can carry it. It keeps the person off the ground, and bugs don’t like them.”
Each plastic mat takes about 35 hours to make and is constructed using 500 to 700 plastic bags. The mat-making process involves cutting plastic bags into strips and carefully crocheting them together. Strips of color are added to the mats using differently colored plastic bags.
Maple Grove Missionary Baptist Church member Nancy Montooth introduced the project idea to fellow church members in March after reading an article about it.
“We all have plastic bags,” Montooth said. “It’s a way to recycle and help the homeless. I just thought it was neat what you could make with something you don’t normally think about.”
The ladies at the church work in conjunction with Lost Sheep Ministry in Knoxville and Maryville Towers to distribute the mats to the homeless. They recently gave Lost Sheep Ministry 10 completed mats.
Lost Sheep Ministry is a Christian ministry that facilitates a number of outreach programs to help Knoxville’s homeless, offering food, shelter, prayer and fellowship as well as assistance to those with drug and alcohol dependencies.
Maryville Towers assists in teaching about the project and the mat-making process.
The women of Maple Grove Missionary Baptist Church often work on the mats at home and in their spare time, receiving plastic bags via church member donations.
Wanting to spread the project throughout Blount County, Bowman also recently visited Immanuel Baptist Church to teach church members how to begin making the mats.
“We are one of the first in this area to do this,” Bowman said of her church, “but we would like to get something started in Blount County. If we can extend it and get as many people as we can working on it, we can make more mats. And it’s fun. Once you get started, you get energized.”
‘Really hits you’
Sisters-in-law Brittany and Aimee Harris are two of the youngest volunteers involved in the sleeping mat project at Maple Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
Brittany Harris, a sophomore at Pellissippi State Community College, said she was touched by the meaning behind the project and the ability to use an everyday item to help someone in need.
“You hear about homeless people every day, but it really hits you when you see it,” she said. “I sleep in a bed every night. It’s not the best bed, but it’s a bed. It just makes you think how something I use every day we can use to help someone sleep at night.”
Aimee Harris, a 2011 graduate of Roane State Community College, also enjoys making the mats.
“You don’t think everyday things can help someone else, but they can,” she said. “I think it’s neat.”