Group of volunteers crochet shopping bags into sleeping mats for the homeless
by Brian Anderson
Oct 11, 2013 | 6719 views |  0 comments | 68 68 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brenda Mayfield shows a plastic grocery store bag mat and pillow that she crocheted for the homeless at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Anniston. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Brenda Mayfield shows a plastic grocery store bag mat and pillow that she crocheted for the homeless at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Anniston. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Brenda Mayfield explains it like she’s weaving yarn into a blanket.

Her materials are plastic, and the method is crocheting, but all the same, the office manager at the Center for Concern in Anniston on Friday morning proudly unfurled a mat made up of 1,000 discarded grocery bags. It’s Mayfield’s hope the mat, along with nine others in the basement at Trinity Lutheran Church on Quintard Avenue, will make things a little easier for the homeless population of Anniston to sleep at night in the upcoming months.

“We thought it might add a little bit of comfort for someone who probably doesn’t have a lot of comfort,” Mayfield said.

Since July, Mayfield has been asking volunteers in Calhoun County’s faith communities to donate plastic bags and their time to fashion them into sleeping mats for the homeless. So far the volunteers, who meet every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church, have created 10 mats. Mayfield said it’s her goal to make 28 before November – that’s the number of chronically homeless people Interfaith Ministries saw regularly last year, she said.

Mayfield got the idea for the mats from Lena Colley, the owner of New Traditions Machine Quilting in Birmingham. Colley said she read about the mats in a publication put out by the Birmingham Baptist Association and found videos online of how to put them together.

“Bags are just going to be thrown away usually, anyway,” Colley said. “It’s something so easy, I crochet while I’m watching TV at night. And it can provide some comfort for someone who really needs it.”

More than just some comfort, the mats are water- and mildew-proof, and lightweight, so they’re easy for someone to take with them, Colley said.

Mayfield started advertising for volunteers in church newsletters a few months ago, and has a small group of regular helpers from several area churches.

“I think people are inherently kind, and they want to do something; they just don’t always know what to do,” Mayfield said. “Everybody has plastic bags from Walmart or Publix. It’s so easy to just donate those.”

It’s easy to learn to crochet as well, Mayfield said, although it is time-consuming. She estimates it takes about 10 hours to cut the bags into strips and tie them together into plastic strands, and another 20 to fully crochet a 6 foot mat, complete with a carrying loop.

Eleanor Henderson, a volunteer from Sacred Heart Church in Anniston, said that when she heard about the project, she was skeptical the mats would come together.

“You’re going to use Walmart and Dollar Tree bags and make sleeping mats?” Henderson said. “How’s that going to work?”

Henderson said she was won over by Mayfield’s passion for the project, and her desire to help those less fortunate.

“It’s so easy to become homeless,” Henderson said. “It could happen to anyone of us.”

Anyone interested in donating bags or volunteering to crochet mats should contact Mayfield at the Center for Concern at 256-236-7793.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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