Mats For The Homeless

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High School Students Help Turn Discarded Grocery Bags Into Mats

By Joe Foreman, Editor

A collaborative effort between Glenwood Community High School students and a crocheting group that meets regularly at Trinity Lutheran Church, will keep nearly 23,000 plastic grocery bags out of the landfill and roadside ditches while providing some winter warmth and comfort to more than a dozen homeless people in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area.


“I’m so proud of these kids. They really got behind this project and wanted to do something to make a difference,” GCHS environmental science teacher Betsy Maryott said Friday afternoon as she watched members of the crocheting group show students what it takes to make sleeping mats out of the discarded grocery bags. “We felt this would work great with my curriculum for environmental science.”

When Maryott and her class discussed the idea of having a contest to see which second-period class at the school could collect the most plastic bags for the project, she and her students were hopeful at least 1,500 bags – enough to make one mat – would be gathered.

The school-wide bag drive lasted two weeks and greatly exceeded expectations. Members of the crocheting group, known as Mat Makers For Christ, have been making the mats for a couple of years. Friday afternoon, they brought their expertise to the GCHS cafeteria where students were taught the skills of cutting, rolling and crocheting the plastic bags into sleep mats.

“I love it,” Mat Makers For Christ spokesperson Janice Kruse said. “I’m so impressed by these kids. I’m happy because they want to do something to clean up our environment.”

Kruse said as many as 15 sleeping mats will be created from the bags collected at the high school. The Mat Makers will complete the mats started Friday by the GCHS students and distribute them later this fall to homeless shelters and programs for the needy in Omaha and Council Bluffs.