“Old Bags” Have New Life!

| April 2, 2013

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Looking for a project for your school, senior club or just want to get involved? Look no further than New Life for Old Bags or NLOB. This project helps the environment by reusing plastic bags and aids the homeless at the same time!

Plastic bags are repurposed through a process that turns the bags into yarn or “plarn”. The plarn is then crocheted with large crochet hooks to make sleeping mats for the homeless.  Why do they use plastic bags?  Most discarded plastic bags end up in landfills, in our oceans which can harm or kill marine wildlife or flying around where they can be fatal to land animals who mistakenly consume them. NLOB estimates their work has diverted 277,000 plastic bags from the landfills. In their first two years, NLOB volunteers made 395 sleeping mats that were distributed to homeless people by Cornerstone Community Outreach in the Uptown area of Chicago.

While visiting one of their volunteer sessions, People & Places saw first hand the work involved in creating these beautiful and colorful mats. The process of preparing the bags took several steps and it takes 500-700 bags per mat. Hundreds of hours are needed to prepare the mats, but it’s worth the effort to help the homeless.  In 2011, there were estimates of 93,780 homeless people in Chicago of which 47% are families.

The volunteer session, located at the United in Faith Lutheran Church on Irving Park Road in Chicago, was amazing to watch and those involved were individuals, groups and organizations. Senior groups love the project as it gives them a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment once a mat is completed. For those who suffer from dementia who are living in the moment, they enjoy sitting around a table with other people seeing the progress of their work taking shape. Many participants get excited and say it’s a lot of fun to see the different colored bags and being energized by how they are going to assemble them. NLOB creates a sense of community wthin communities giving participants something in common to look forward to. It also opens up the lines of communication on social issues such as homelessness and recycling.

If you are interested in getting involved or starting your own group, contact Ruth Werstler, NLOB founder, at nlob-join@hotmail.com or visit one of their volunteer sessions. Tuesdays, 1-4 pm, Bethesda Home, 2833 N. Nordica Ave., Chicago, IL or the first Saturday of every month, 10 am to 1 pm, United in Faith Lutheran Church, 6525 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago. You can also find them on Facebook.

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Category: Articles, Community News

About the Author ()

Barbara is the publisher of People and Places Newspaper which she started in August of 2011. A lifelong resident of Schiller Park, she always felt it important that residents needed to be kept informed about their communities. Since newspaper coverage for Schiller Park stopped about twenty years ago, she made it a goal to bring a newspaper back to the area. She tries to include all of Leyden Township in her reporting and wants to keep true with the mission of the paper to "inform, educate and entertain."

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