Turning bags into beds: Class makes life more comfortable for homeless

Daniel Axford Elementary teacher Renee Green’s second-grade class used recycled plastic bags to help make sleeping mats for homeless people. Photo by Elise Shire.
Daniel Axford Elementary teacher Renee Green’s second-grade class used recycled plastic bags to help make sleeping mats for homeless people. Photo by Elise Shire.

You might not think much of those plastic shopping bags you’ve been hoarding in the kitchen, but a second-grade class at Daniel Axford (DA) Elementary is putting this item to good use by helping the homeless.

Since January, the class has been working on a project which will create sleeping mats for the homeless out of recycled plastic bags.

Once a week, the class folds and cuts donated plastic bags into strips and then ties them together to create what they’ve dubbed “plarn,” or plastic yarn.

They then pass the plarn on to Lake Orion resident Terry Cooper and DA teacher Renee Green who use it to crochet sleeping mats for the homeless.

Once completed, the mats create a comfy barrier between the ground and the body, which helps retain body heat while sleeping.

According to Green, she first learned about the project through her mother, a resident at Independence Village of Waterstone in December.

She introduced the project to her class in January, hoping to teach her students a lesson in kindness.

“I wanted them to learn about compassion, helping others, recycling, and working for a cause… but, mostly that each of us can make a difference in this world. I think, often times, people think that volunteering means you have to come up with an idea and take it to the end product and the reality is that (even) the kids who brought in a single bag still made a difference. I hope that they will want to keep doing volunteer efforts throughout their life,” Green explained.

Before long, students throughout the school began donating plastic grocery and garbage bags towards their effort and a donation box was established at Daniel Axford Elementary. Makenna Meeks, one of Green’s students, wanted to take the project even further by recruiting the crocheting talents of her grandmother, Cooper.

“To hear about it and that she wanted to help out… it was just heartfelt honesty from a kid,” said Makenna’s mother, Cassie Meeks. “It was really special that she wanted to do that.”

Cooper said she is happy to use her crocheting skills to help the community.

“I’m hoping that more people will get involved in things like this. It’s just a sad thing to know that people are sleeping on the ground. Makenna and I, we’ve talked about it, and we’re very thankful for our beds and our blankets,” said Cooper.

Makenna seemed to agree, adding that she hopes the mats will make a positive difference in the lives of others.

“I think that the people that get (the mats) are going to feel really happy because then they can stay dry,” said Makenna.

The task requires time and dedication since 700-1,000 bags and a minimum of 15 hours are needed to crochet a single six-foot-long roll.

Having crocheted a total of 11 rolls so far, Green says the class has already surpassed their goal of producing ten mats.

She plans to continue heading the project and crocheting mats until the end of the school year.

The mats will eventually be donated to The Baldwin Center in Pontiac, which will distribute the lightweight mats to those in need.

 

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