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Hooked on Giving

This member uses her crocheting skills to make sleeping mats for the homeless in her community.


Think for a second about the plastic bags you get from the grocery store. How many do you accumulate in a month? Do they not often end up in the infinite “bag of bags” stuffed under the kitchen sink?

Geralynn Hurt, Smulders 1101, Dearborn Hts., Mich., has been a COF member since 1979, is actively involved with her family in their local court, and has found an innovative and practical use for these plastic bags, beyond collecting dust in a cabinet. It all started when her eldest daughter Nancy wanted to pay it forward for all the support she received while her son was in the NICU, so she enlisted Geralynn and a few others to crochet blankets for premature babies. The project finished in July 2018, and Geralynn noticed in the Helping Hands section of the Sterling Heights Senior News that they gather once a month to sort and cut recycled plastic bags into strips to make what Gerlaynn refers to as “plarn”, or plastic yarn.

For a year now she’s been crocheting plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless in her area, completing two a month to donate to the Utica-Shelby Kiwanis Club who then distribute the mats to two local charities. The individuals who attend Senior Center functions drop off their excess grocery or newspaper bags, and in any given month there are between six and 10 huge garbage bags stuffed with them for Geralynn to collect. The bottom and handles are cut off each bag, they are folded, cut into thirds or fourths and connected to make a ball of “plarn”. Her youngest daughter, Donna, wraps the strips of “plarn” into numbered and colored balls, which Geralynn can then use to begin crafting the mats. Each mat is two-and-a-half feet wide by six feet long, takes 20 hours to make, uses over 500 plastic bags, is pest-resistant, is waterproof and provides a slight cushion and protective barrier for the recipient to place their blanket on so as to avoid sleeping on the hard ground.

Geralynn never imagined the avenues this project would open up for her. “Our project was featured in a two-page spread in the Macomb Daily, I’ve been invited to the ‘Sit-n-Stitch’ group to share ‘purls’ of wisdom, and I have met so many amazing people!” she exclaimed. “Who would have thought simply crocheting some recycled bags together would connect me with my community the way it has?” She plans to continue supporting this effort for a long time, since the need is high and the supply of plastic bags even higher.  

Article by Alison Mink.

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