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Plastic Grocery Bags turned into Mats for the Homeless

Have you ever wondered what to do with all of those plastic grocery bags you’ve accumulated from each trip to the store?

Central office’s Linda Hutchins has an answer for you.

For the past two years, Linda has been working with her friend Patti Barnett, fondly known as “The Mat Lady”, to help turn these plastic bags into sleeping mats to hand out to the homeless.

It takes Patti 1,200 plastic bags and two days of nonstop crocheting to make one mat; however, before Patti can even start to crochet, the bags have to be sorted, cut and folded a certain way to turn them into plastic yarn, or “plarn”.

Patti crochets the bags into a long and narrow shape so that they can be pulled up and over to provide more cover.  Then, she uses more bags to create a strap so that the mats can be rolled up and carried easily.

Since 2016, Patti has created over 100 mats. Patti, along with other ladies who crochet has visited churches, schools, and assisted living homes to teach people how to make the mats. She supplies bags and plarn to some of those efforts. When she first began, she started giving them to homeless people she’d see beside the road close to home. Then, she made a connection to give out mats through a man in Marietta who was involved in helping the homeless. Now, the mats also go to homeless people in Atlanta.

Several of M&J’s other offices, including Albany, Macon and Bradenton, as well as many local groups have helped contribute to this cause. Sandra Dunbar’s daughter, who is a student at Campbell High School, has been collecting bags from her fellow classmates to donate. Amy Clark’s Girl Scout Troop has collected bags and helped out at one of the sorting, folding, cutting sessions as part of a service project as well.

Another added benefit is turning these bags into mats keeps them out of a landfill, since many recycling locations no longer accept plastic bags.

It is a great public service project if you’re looking for one- anyone can be involved in some way. One of Linda’s friends has even started making hats out of the bags.

While Patti is the main crocheter, there are several others who also spend time crocheting: Shan Dye (crochets mats and hats); Miriam Swain (mats); Shelvey Rodgers (mats); Beth Dean (mats); and Cara Chapman (mats).

Thank you to everyone who has faithfully donated bags for the past two years. The donations are essential as the supporting foundation of the project. Check out the pictures below to see some of Patti’s work!