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Plastic bags recycled into sleeping mats

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By Candis Carpenter

With a knack for crocheting and a will to help others Hodgenville resident Martha Childress learned in February the art of crocheting plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats for the homeless.
Childress was introduced to the concept by the Bowling Green Community Action and immediately took a liking to it.
Since learning how to crochet the mats, which take about 40 hours to complete, Childress has taught numerous other groups, organizations and individuals the art of helping others through creating the mats.
“Even if you cannot crochet, there is a job for you,” said Childress “Folding, cutting and looping the bags is also part of the process.”
Childress recommends at least two people work on a mat for faster production.
“I have a partner who folds, cuts and loops the bags so that when I get them I can start crocheting,” said Childress “It splits up the time between us ... about 20 hours of work each for one mat.”
Her crocheting partner, Phyllis Miles, recommends doing “a little at a time” so that “you don’t get tired.”
“I try and do a little while I’m waiting for something to cook or watching TV at night,” said Miles, “and before you know it it’s done.”
The smallest of the mats measures two-and-a-half-feet wide by six-feet long and is complete with a carrying handle for easy portability.
“Not only is it for a good cause, it helps recycle the bags,” said Childress. “It takes a thousand bags to make one of the smallest mats that we make ... that’s a lot of bags saved from landfills.”
According to Childress making the mats has “snowballed” in the community and several neighboring churches have begun to produce them.
“The youth groups have really caught on to it,” said Childress “Some of them are planning to send mats to Haiti.”
Even Childress has begun teaching younger children the skills necessary to produce a mat.
“Right now I am working with four to eight year olds,” said Childress “I had one four year old get frustrated because she thought she couldn’t do anything, so when I showed her that shaking out the bags was a job she could do, she loved it.... She probably shook out 140 bags or so.”
Childress holds free lessons by request at Harvestland Community Church on Lincoln Parkway for anyone interested in learning how to make the mats. Call 270-766-4426 to reach Childress for more information.
The mats are distributed to Warm Blessings Soup Kitchen in Elizabethtown for distribution and local churches as a teaching aide.
“My hope is to teach as many people as I can,” said Childress “Anyone can do it and it’s for a really good cause.”