Turning Plastic Bags into Sleeping Mats, Residents of Friendship Village Provide Comfort to Homeless This Holiday Season and Beyond

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An unlikely combination of recycled plastic shopping bags in the hands of philanthropic seniors, is resulting in a way for homeless people to have a more dignified and comfortable night’s sleep.

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“Friendship Village residents are very service-oriented in general. We are constantly impressed with the number of hours that the residents volunteer off campus, throughout the community,” said Jeannette Magdaleno.

An unlikely combination of recycled plastic shopping bags in the hands of philanthropic seniors, is resulting in a way for homeless people to have a more dignified and comfortable night’s sleep.

Residents of Friendship Village in Schaumburg have launched a new initiative whereby they are repurposing plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless. The project, according to Jeannette Magdaleno, lifelong learning and volunteer coordinator for Friendship Village, helps provide comfort to individuals who are homeless, while also keeping thousands of plastic garbage bags out of landfills. Approximately 30 Friendship Village residents have been trained in the process of creating the mats, and they will continue to train their fellow friends and residents. “They’ll meet on their own and in groups and will keep making these mats, as long as plastic bags are still legal,” said Jeannette.

The manufacturing process includes cutting the plastic bags into strips called plarn, (plastic yarn) which is then crocheted into colorful mats. Approximately 500-700 bags are used per mat. The resulting item provides a barrier between the ground and a blanket or sleeping bag. The items are highly prized by homeless people who find them to make sleeping more comfortable and dignified.

“Friendship Village residents are very service-oriented in general. We are constantly impressed with the number of hours that the residents volunteer off campus, throughout the community,” said Jeannette. “This project is especially exciting to me as it’s resident driven. They’ve learned the process, and will be moving it forward on their own. They’re very motivated by the fact that this is, not only good for our fellow human beings, but also for the environment.”

The finished mats are distributed to Catholic Charities.

Friendship Village is a leading Chicago-area retirement community offering a complete continuum of care including independent living garden homes and apartment homes, as well as assisted living, memory support, skilled care, and short- and long-term rehabilitation services. For more than 37 years, Friendship Village has been providing Chicago area seniors with exceptional retirement living options. For additional information visit http://www.FriendshipVillage.org

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Bridget Machalinski

Bridget Machalinski
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