Patti’s Sleep Mats

It’s ten o’clock on a Wednesday morning and if you listen real closely you will hear laughter and rustling of plastic shopping bags. Every Wednesday since October 2016, a group of people gather in a Smyrna home to give back to the community in a unique way. Patti Barnett, the original organizer of the “Bag Ladies” as they have named themselves, has been looking for a way to give back to her community for some time and now she has found it.

Ms. Barnett is spearheading an initiative to crochet bedrolls made out of plastic shopping bags and distribute these bedrolls to homeless individuals in the Smyrna/Marietta area. Every year, around 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. 500,000,000,000. Five hundred followed by nine zeros. That’s a lot of bags.

So many that over one million bags are being used every minute and they’re damaging our environment. Big numbers can be daunting so let’s put it another way…every man, woman and child on our planet uses 83 plastic bags every year. That’s one bag per person every four and half days. Of those 500 billion bags, 100 billion are consumed in the United States alone. (dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/PlasticBags/Articles/Googobits_07-21-05.pdf). These “Bag Ladies” have found a way to keep these bags out of the landfill that would otherwise go to waste.

The idea originally came from a social media post that Patti’s daughter forwarded to her mother, and now this idea has grown to include neighbors, friends, and acquaintances throughout our area. Ms. Barnett attends Hurt Road Baptist Church in Smyrna and has included many in her church in the effort. The Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) group has been the biggest driver in this initiative. Ms. Barnett says, “Making these mats is not hard to do at all. It just takes commitment.

Each mat requires about 1200 bags, but with so many people helping, it really isn’t as daunting as it sounds.” She continued, “Overall we have about 25 people helping each week on average. Even more than that as you think about the whole process. Between the collecting, sorting, folding, cutting, crocheting, and distribution, I really haven’t counted all of the participants.” In all, each mat takes approximately a week to complete and that is with someone crocheting at least 6 hours a day.

Ms. Barnett has been really surprised at times with the number of bags that have been donated, but with the help of volunteers the numbers aren’t too overwhelming. Besides the volunteers from her church, Ms. Barnett has made trips to train others how to make these mats for the homeless. She has trained a school and a church in the Covington area, and also trained a group of women at another local congregation, and two troops from the Girl Scouts of America. She has even gotten the support of some local businesses that have begun to collect bags for her to use.

Ms. Barnett says, “The biggest benefit for us is the fellowship and the sense of community we feel as we gather. It’s really been a lot of fun!” One participant said, “This is the highlight of my week, we learn a lot…like how to use Shoe Gu to fix my boots, and that yellow mustard takes away muscle cramps.” There is another lady who has said, “I can’t fold, cut, or crochet, but I can cook for those who do and bring them food as they serve others.” These ladies are driven by the Great Commandment to love God and love others and they are using their talents to make a difference in the life of someone less fortunate. So far there are 22 homeless individuals who have been blessed with a mat from the Bag Ladies, and each recipient’s name is written down and prayed over as they gather to help others. Ms. Barnett says, “We are really praying for more people to step forward who would be willing to crochet. We have plenty of bags to supply them, but not enough people actually crocheting.”

If you, or your church group, would like to find out more information regarding this project you can call the office at Hurt Road Baptist Church at 770-435-8164.