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Upcycling And Crocheting Helps Homeless

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Instead of letting old plastic shopping bags clog our landfill or flutter around on the whims of the wind, one local group is upcycling them to help folks in need.

Those plastic bags that you carry home from a Target run or your weekly grocery shopping are finding new life in the hands of some dedicated crocheters.  The Normal Public Library group known as The Circle are hosting a day of crocheting on May 27th  to turn hundreds of plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats for the homeless.  

Credit Normal Public Library
The Circle for the Homeless crocheting event is May 27 from 10 am to 2 pm at the Normal Public Library.

Silvia Schuh from the Library said this event was inspired by another recent event involving knitters and crocheters: Scarves of Strength.  "We had a bunch of women who came out and volunteered to knit and crochet scarves and hats for women in the domestic violence shelters," said Schuh.  "They were really excited to do this, to be able to give back to the community.  And they wanted to form a group that would do charitable things.  We're calling ourselves The Circle.  About a month ago we did hats for kids at Saint Jude.  So this was a natural fit for us."

Now The Circle is in the midst of creating sleeping mats for the homeless from discarded plastic grocery bags.  The bags are cut into strips and tied together to create what's called 'plarn.' Then the crocheters use the plarn to create the mats. It takes about 600 bags to make one mat and it's time consuming -- taking several hours. The end result is a lightweight, waterproof mat that can easily be rolled up and carried.

"I keep tabs on places like Home Sweet Home, and I learned that some homeless people don't go to shelters for whatever reason," said Schuh. "And they would definitely need something like this mat to help them stay in the places they want to, like parks. There is a big population of homeless in Bloomington-Normal that don't stay in shelters."

"It's a win-win situation.  We get to recycle the bags and  help the homeless."

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.
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