You may not be able to do everything in this life but you can do something.
With that in mind, Judy Simmill of Chilliwack has been quietly crocheting sleeping mats for the homeless out of plastic bags.
By cutting bags into strips, rolling them into plastic yarn balls called ‘plarn,’ and crocheting them into a sleeping surface, Simmill has managed to put together more than 40 mats.
The plarn mats are easy to clean, portable, and they don’t attract lice or bedbugs. They get people off the cold ground and insulate against the elements.
Simmill likes to crochet and cross-stitch anyway. But this project offered the added element of compassion.
Each mat takes about 70 hours to make.
Simmill underlined that she doesn’t want any fuss or fanfare for doing this, and would have preferred no photos taken, but she would like to hear from other charitable folks in Chilliwack who might enjoying crocheting these mats as she does, or collecting clean bags for her.
Brian Goldstone of Griffin Security says the folks he’s given mats to, love them. Sometimes they even try to steal them from one another or fight over them.
“But the best was when one of guys was heading into housing, and getting off the streets. On his last day, he turned around and he passed that mat on to the next guy to use.”
Simmill said when she heard that little story, it kept her going. It was at a time that she was just about ready to give up, after having grown tired from plugging away at it single-handedly.
But the story about how the mats were impacting Chilliwack people in real life, had the effect of regalvanizing her, and she carried on.
It was a YouTube video about how to make them, that first got the retired school board employee thinking, ‘I could do that.’
When she first started a few years ago, Simmill asked people she knew to collect clean bags for her. Then someone suggested she ask local businesses, and that ramped things up. Her garage filled up with plastic strips.
Local downtown merchants like Lolly’s Fashion Lounge and Mary’s on Wellington have been super about helping by putting aside plastic bags and plastic wrapping to contribute to Simmill’s project.
“It’s amazing,” said Lois Chadburn, owner of Lolly’s, said about the mat-making.
They even made a video from the store asking people to come down and donate recycled plastic bags to help Simmill make the plarn balls.
“The fact that Judy takes the time to do this to help people, and it’s another way to divert plastic, we were super excited to help her out,” Chadburn said.
Anyone interested in collecting bags, or making mats can contact Judy Simmill of Chilliwack from her Facebook profile.
Asked to conclude with why she makes the mats, Simmill added:
“If even one person can use it and it makes their life easier, I’m ok,” Simmill said. “Just one.”
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