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Most households have an abundance of plastic bags.
But what people may not know is that there is now a new demand for those bags—one that can provide great comfort for those in need.
Fifth and sixth grade students at Orchard Public School are turning plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless.
Fifth grade teacher Tami Kuhfal and sixth grade teacher Jana Wilhelm are overseeing the project. They are assisted by Joyce Leyman as well.
“It all started when we decided to create a Makerspace at our school,” Kuhfal said. “I was looking for activities and projects for the students. Someone mentioned they knew a person who made sleep mats for the homeless.”
Loretta Foote of Orchard, who has made 90 mats, donated two looms to the school, she said.
Kuhfal said the students are currently working on two mats.
“We are still making them,” she said. “The loom will up all year. We have two in progress. We hope to complete one or two this week. It takes a little over four hours to make one.”
The completed mats will measure roughly 6 feet by 4 feet.
“It takes 300 plastic grocery bags for one mat,” Kuhfal said. “People from the community are donating bags.”
She said people are welcome to bring more bags to the school throughout the year.
The bags are flattened, cut and sorted before they are then chained together in groups of four. Then they are stretched on the loom and more chains of bags are woven through the loom. Kuhfal said the scraps are saved to make a pillow. She said colored vinyl tablecloths add a pattern and creativity to the mats as well. Finally, large black trash bags are cut and braided together so the mats can be rolled and tied.
The loom is set up in the Makerspace/teachers workroom and students work on them once or twice a week during their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) time or they stop in during their TeamMates time.
Kuhfal said the homeless will be able to use the mats “to sleep on or wrap up to keep warm and dry.”
“The kids are so excited to do this project,” she said. “It is a small part of being kind. The students learn compassion and realize how blessed they are to have a home and bed.”