In an attempt to recycle plastic bags while creating social impact, a group of elderly women in a church in the U.S. State of Tennessee has transformed over 10,000 discarded plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless. The “Tennessee Bag Ladies,” meet every Thursday since January 2015 to knit the beds. So far, they have crocheted over 165 mattresses from plastic bags.
Randy Pool, who works with volunteering organization Mississippi River Ministry, launched the program, which gained immediate fame.
“I’m not sure who had the original idea, but it’s become a popular activity among women in the Baptist community,” Pool told France 24. “I thought it was a great idea so I started talking about it to churchgoers in my region, especially in Union City.”
The Tennessee Bag Ladies cut donated plastic bags into strips and tie them together, creating a plastic yarn, and crochet them together to make the sleeping mattresses. Women meet at the Second Baptist Church in Union City to knit the bags together. Knitting a single mattress can take up to two weeks.
Janice Akin, a 66-year-old member of the Tennessee Bag Ladies, told ABC that it makes them “feel really blessed to be able to do this. “I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a good feeling to know you’re helping someone — even if just a little bit.”
“Sometimes while you’re in the middle of a mat, you just realize you’re helping someone, and it makes you want to keep doing more,” Akin added. “We really enjoy it. We get to have fellowship and have fun with each other.” Local supermarkets have started donated plastic bags to the Bag Ladies. Locals have also contributed with the unwanted plastic bags in their households.
“Several churches of the Big Hatchie Baptist Association have been bringing by plastic bags from local retail stores to be used in weaving waterproof mats for homeless individuals,”Mississippi River Ministry Facebook page reads. “Some were used here in West Tennessee while others are being carried overseas. The idea was communicated through the Mississippi River Ministry during their annual meeting of 2013. The Mumford Baptist church constructed a weaving machine to facilitate the making of the mats.”
The title of this article was changed from “From Plastic to Blankets: How Tennessee Warmed Up the Homeless” to “Plastic To Blankets: Tennessee ‘Bag Ladies’ Warm The Homeless” on 23 April, 2018. This article was also edited for clarity.