Tossing plastic bags into a recycling bin? That’s too easy.
At Lanier Village Estates in Gainesville, Ga., a group of ladies are recycling plastic bags in an entirely new and meaningful way: creating sleeping mats for homeless veterans.
Resident Barbara Heartz, 93, started the program in her retirement community after first learning of the idea while volunteering at her church. Today, about a dozen women – most of them in their nineties – get together each week to crochet or weave the plastic bags into waterproof, bug resistant mats for homeless vets sleeping outside.
It takes a lot of time and teamwork from the whole community. The ladies set up a donation bin inside Lanier Village’s mail room for fellow residents, family members and friends to discard their plastic bags. Volunteers then sort, cut, flatten and weave the bags into intricately designed rugs. It takes a lot of plastic bags: about 700 for just one rug!
The group has donated more than 50 sleep mats over the past year.
The mats are delivered to the Veterans Hospital in Decatur and Life Teen Missionaries in Dahlonega to distribute to those living on the streets in downtown Atlanta. Each mat has a strap attached to make it easier to carry.
The less fortunate who receive the gifts are very appreciative. Volunteers say they often touch and admire the soft, cushiony feel.
“We hear from some of the men who receive them, they absolutely love them,” Barbara Heartz said. “It keeps them comfortable and off the cold ground. I understand they’re very protective of them.”
“The smiles on their faces were extremely moving,” said Karen Blaser, a parishioner at Good Shepherd Church in Cumming, who helped Heartz start the project. ”They’re all made in different patterns, not one is made the same.
“They may not all be perfect," Blaser continued. "But they are made with love.”