Chehalis Church Members Become 'Bag Ladies'

April 29, 2018 | Earlene Wohlers

“We should all go to lunch!” This phrase sent the ladies of a Sabbath School class from the Chehalis (Wash.) Church to lunch in October 2017. While lunching they decided to find a project to benefit children in the local area.

The group wanted personal involvement rather than simply donating financially. They wanted to meet as a group regularly while benefiting someone in need, and, most importantly, they wanted to make a difference in a child’s life.

After a December meeting preparing Christmas gifts for local foster kids, the ladies decided to start a major project of making sleeping mats from plastic grocery bags for homeless teens. The “Bag Ladies” were off and running!

It sounded simple — just cut the bags, attach them to make yarnlike strips (“plarn”) and crochet them into 3-by-6-foot mats. The truth was a little bigger: It takes about 700 bags to make one mat.

A continual pilfering of bag recycle bins is required, and lots of hours (at least nine just to crochet one mat) are spent in the completion of each sleeping mat. The upside is the gratification that comes from doing something unexpected for another person.

Some Bag Ladies cut and “plarn” while others crochet. When the plastic bags began taking over people's living quarters, one Bag Lady repurposed her exercise room as the “Plarn Center” for the group, giving a place for the “plarnists” to deposit their product and the crocheters to pick up supplies and leave mats. Plus, that Bag Lady doesn’t have to feel guilty about not using her exercise equipment!

Ten mats were delivered by March 1 for 10 homeless teenagers who won’t live in a shelter because they would have to give up their pets. More mats are in process with the hope of making a small difference in the lives of the kids who call a shopping cart home.