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Transforming plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless
Daily Herald Report

Lois Zima, left, of Des Plaines and Leona Krause of Palatine create mats for the homeless made from plastic grocery bags at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Palatine.

 

Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Corrine Strunk of Palatine, left, and Virginia Wente also of Palatine create mats for the homeless made from plastic grocery bags at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Palatine.

 

Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

This is a sample of one of the mats for the homeless made from plastic grocery bags at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Palatine.

 

Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/7/2009 12:00 AM

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Plastic bags - they're everywhere. Grocery stores, clothing stores, dry cleaners. Shoppers quickly become inundated with dozens of plastic bags.

What's a person to do with all those bags? Trash them? Take them back to the store for recycling?

The new Sleeping Mat Ministry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Palatine, provides another option to dispose of all those unwanted plastic bags. Each Friday, women from Immanuel's 50s Plus gather to transform plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats for the homeless.

Creating sleeping mats is a team effort. One sleeping mat and tie requires 500 to 700 plastic bags and approximately 35 hours to make. The women cut the bags into rings and loop them together to form "yarn". Then, using a single crochet, they create a 3-foot by 6-foot sleeping mat that the homeless can lay on to cushion themselves from the cold, wet pavement or ground. The mats are surprising durable. There also is a need for these mats in the Gulf Coast region where there still are many homeless and "tent city" residents from Hurricane Katrina.

"Immanuel has been actively involved in the community, and for more than 20 years has been providing food and clothing through our Good Samaritan Ministries," said Rev. Thomas R. Acton, senior pastor at Immanuel. "The sleeping mat ministry is an extension of our commitment to showing Christ's compassion for those in need."

Youth groups, senior groups, churches, and social clubs and organizations can all get involved in establishing a sleeping mat ministry. Lutheran Church Charities, a nonprofit, human care ministry of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that's based in Addison, has created a video that provides details about how to begin making sleeping mats for the homeless.

It's online at lutheranchurchcharities.org, or as a DVD at (886) 455-6466, a toll-free number.

Lutheran Church Charities will cover shipping costs for organizations wishing to donate mats to the homeless both locally and in the Gulf Coast region.

The Sleeping Mat Ministry at Immanuel has completed eight mats. More plastic bags are needed. They can be dropped off Monday through Friday at Immanuel Lutheran Church & School, 200 North Plum Grove Road in downtown Palatine.

For information, call (847) 359-1549 or visit www.immanuelpalatine.org.