By Madeline Gardner
On July 22, sleeping mats created out of recycled plastic bags and pillows were distributed at Bell Shoals Church in Apollo Beach for the South County At-risk and Homeless Outreach Event. Following a request for plastic shopping bags from the community in May, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce made use of Sun City Center resident Shawna Wainright’s idea to fashion close to 2,000 plastic bags into six 4 ft. x 5 ft. sleeping mats for homeless citizens in the community.
Wainright first developed this idea working at a retail boutique in Delaware where the sales staff was responsible for unpacking the merchandise and then disposing of large amounts of clear plastic bags.
“I thought that there must be a way to reuse and recycle the clear bags as well as the used colorful plastic shopping bags accumulating under my sink,” said Wainright. “So, I Googled ‘uses for plastic bags’ and was excited to discover that the bags could be crocheted into plastic mats for the homeless.”
During the pandemic, Wainright created more than 30 mats and delivered them to a nonprofit organization in her home state of Delaware to distribute to the homeless from there. She resumed this project once more after she relocated to Sun City Center and noticed a need for sleeping mats. Joining the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, she was able to execute this mission at homeless outreach events.
Each mat requires between 300-350 plastic bags that must first undergo the cleaning and preparation process. The bags must be examined for traces of food or holes before they are either discarded or flattened and trimmed to assume a rectangular shape, which are then folded again into groups of three and fashioned into strips. These strips are next fastened together and rolled into balls of plastic yarn, totaling 700 balls used to develop the six sleeping mats.
Colorful and striped, these mats are designed to withstand the weather of each season with water resistance and insulation qualities. Portable and lightweight, each mat is paired with a heart-shaped pillow as well.
“I am blessed to have a cozy bed to sleep in each evening and I want others to feel comfortable at night too, and I want them to know that they are loved. I have empathy and care about others,” said Wainright. “I have learned that when a caring person gives from their heart, they are giving others a brand-new start.”
For more information on this event and others by the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, please call 645-1366 or email email@example.com.