CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. -- A local group of volunteers spends time each week crocheting what some might consider garbage into something quite useful.
They take every day plastic grocery bags and turn them into sturdy, water-resistant mats for homeless people.
Karen Lowry loves to crochet, and when she learned on Facebook that her talent could help others, she was excited to take her skills to the next level.
It’s not yarn she’s using though. It’s plastic bags that have been cut into strips and tied together.
The women of Buffalo’s Good Neighbors call it “plarn.”
"It's basically the same. It's just, you're adapting to a bigger gage and everything,” Lowry said, threading bag after bag.
Their effort is called Mats for a Mission.
"This isn't going to make it luxurious. But at least it's a buffer. It's a little something to keep their sleeping bag or their blankets…dry,” said project manager Gail Potter. “So that they're not laying in a puddle or on top of snow directly.”
These plastic mats are 3 by 6 feet, and they are impressively thick and strong.
It takes between 700 and 1,000 bags to make a mat, and that is 700 to 1,000 bags that might otherwise end up in a landfill.
Potter says it takes a few weeks during a volunteer's spare time to make a whole one, and right now, they have about 25 completed mats.
"I never thought it would become what it is. I'm overwhelmed with it,” Potter said. “My van is constantly full of plastic bag, ‘plarn’ balls, strips, completed mats.”
The mats roll up for on the on-the-go lifestyle, and a carrying strap is attached.
"It's a little extra comfort,” Potter said.
Buffalo's Good Neighbors already hands out meals, and things like hats gloves and scarves every Sunday, and soon these mats will be available, too.
The group will distribute the mats for the first time on January 8 at Fireman’s Park on Division Street in buffalo
"I just think it's a really neat project. You're using recycled bags and making them into something useful for homeless people, which is really great,” said Lowry.