Group turns plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats for homeless

SNOHOMISH — She’s weaving waste into useful wares.

Marcia LaBossiere is on a mission to make sleeping on the streets of Snohomish a little bit more bearable. She’s crocheting mats from used plastic grocery bags and giving them to the homeless.

LaBossiere researched the knitting technique online and learned how to do it. She heard about a similar recycling project in North Carolina. Once she had the craft down, she started teaching mat-making classes at Hope Foursquare Church in Snohomish.

“We’ve been focusing on ministering to our local community, and this is just my way,” she said. “There are a lot of people who need help locally.”

LaBossiere and a few other women started meeting to crochet the mats. They call their group “Bags of Blessings.” They donated their first dozen mats to the Snohomish food bank in October.

LaBossiere enlisted the help of food bank director Elizabeth Grant because she wanted the mats to end up in the right hands.

“They’re labor-intensive, so I don’t want to give them out willy-nilly,” LaBossiere said. “It’s not something we want to see thrown out and littering the streets.”

She estimates that it takes at least 500 bags to make one six-foot by 3-foot mat. There are at least 24 hours of work involved, she said.

“All it costs is time,” LaBossiere said. “It’s an inexpensive way to make useful things out of trash.”

Grant has asked the group to make more mats for Snohomish’s new cold weather shelter. The women work on the project from 10 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at Hope Foursquare Church.

LaBossiere said almost anything that can be crocheted can also be made from plastic yarn, or “plarn.” She taught the children at her church how to make jump ropes out of thicker-plastic shopping bags. They’re now making jump ropes as part of their missionary work.

LaBossiere is also working to expand the mat-making effort by getting more people and other churches involved. She hopes to start an evening group in the near future. People can call the church at 425-397-6465 for information on how to get involved.

“I’m hoping this will grow and be helpful to other people,” LaBossiere said. “Snohomish has a huge need and that’s where my heart is.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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