We all have some lurking in our homes. Sometimes it seems there is an unending supply. Even when you try to shop responsibly, we all inevitably end up with bags of plastic shopping bags. You can save these to recycle at your local grocery store, but the Pell City Mat Makers are putting these plastic bags to better use.

The Pell City Mat Makers began just over a year ago, a branch of the Grants Mill Group started by Lynn Harrison. The Grants Mill Group started a program to feed the homeless breakfast, pack lunches, and distribute hats, socks, and toiletry items. After seeing a need for blankets, Harrison began the process of collecting plastic bags.

The group of ladies in the Pell City Mat Makers meet every Thursday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at The Brook Coffeehouse in Pell City.

“The work is easy, but it takes time,” Terri Galanti, retired Pell City School teacher and member of the Pell City Mat Makers stated. “We have good fellowship and pray for the people [the blankets] are going to. It’s a great cause.”

It takes about 1000 bags to make each blanket and hours of volunteer work. Each bag has to be collected, sorted, cut, and made into balls of “plarn,” the group’s name for plastic yarn. The group then takes the balls of “plarn” to crotchet into blankets. Nothing goes to waste. The cut pieces of bags and any bags that are ripped or torn will be used to stuff pillows which are made with donated fabric. The finished products are lightweight, insulating, and waterproof.

“We get creative and use different colors to make each blanket special,” Cathy Sims, the leader of the Pell City Mat Makers stated. Currently, the group needs help sorting bags and they are always willing to teach others the cutting, “plarn,” and crocheting techniques they use.

The group also accepts donations of plastic bags or plastic tablecloths, as well as socks, hats, toiletry items, and lip balm to be distributed at various homeless shelters. On March 21 the group visited the Fire House Shelter in Birmingham to see where their mats are used. They also team with other area homeless shelters and ministries to get an estimate on mats that are needed.

According to the 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) presented to Congress by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) there were 564,708 homeless people in the United States as of January 2015. An estimated one-quarter of homeless were children under the age of 18, and around 36 percent of homeless were in families. Of the homeless population, 47,725 were veterans. In Alabama, the homeless population as of January 2015 was 3,970.

The Pell City Mat Makers are doing their part to help those individuals experiencing homelessness, while reusing an item that most people would throw away.

Several ladies from the group also meet at The Brook Coffeehouse on Mondays from 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m. for Crafts for Christ. They offer different crafting options and use donated supplies of ribbons, fabric, burlap, etc. to create works of art. The money they raise from selling these items is donated to Anne’s New Life Center.

If you would like more information on volunteering with the Pell City Mat Makers or donating items, please contact Cathy Sims at (205) 965-7953.

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