JoCo retirees’ Earth Day project is to make plastic bags into mats for houseless people

JoCo retired school personnel making plarn

Retired Johnson County educators and some members of Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village work to make "plarn," plastic yearn, into sleeping mats for individuals experiencing homelessness. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

Two local organizations — a group of retired Johnson County educators and congregants from Asbury United Methodist in Prairie Village — have teamed up to make and donate mats made from recyclable material to give to houseless individuals in the Kansas City area.

How it started: The Johnson County Association of Retired School Personnel, a subgroup of a statewide association, started the effort as an Earth Day project — something the statewide association asks each subgroup to participate in.

JCARSP members researched projects and discovered The Asbury Care Mat Team, based out of the church on 75th Street at which JCARSP conducts its regular meetings.

The church’s care mat team had already been crocheting and making plastic mats to give away to individuals experiencing homelessness.

The process: To contribute, JCARSP members started to collect hundreds of plastic bags in January.

It takes an average of 500 to 700 plastic bags, which are not recyclable, to make one mat. The group got together in late March to begin making balls of plarn, or plastic yarn.

JCARSP let The Asbury Care Mat Team, which formed three years ago, take over from there to crochet and weave the plarn together to make the mats.

Making such mats takes some effort. Here’s a video showing how it can be done.

The Asbury Care Mat Team works with Crosslines Community Outreach and Salvation Army’s Honk and Holler program to distribute the completed mats to homeless Kansas Citians.

Lynn Bain, The Asbury Care Mat Team’s coordinator, said the group has donated more than 30 mats over the past three years. Bain said it’s hard to tell how many mats were produced from JCARSP’s efforts, though.

Two completed plarn mats. Photo courtesy Lynn Bain.

How to get involved: JCARSP is involved in community service efforts all year, including a scholarship for a Johnson County Community College student studying education.

Those interested in joining JCARSP, which meets every other month, can visit the online website for more information.

The Asbury Care Mat Team meets the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Prairie Village church, 5400 W. 75th Street.

Lynn Bain, the group coordinator, said anyone can join — even if they don’t know how to use plarn or make mats.

Key quote: “For me, I stress the recycling part of it,” Bain said. “We’re reusing things and helping the environment, but it’s also something to help the homeless… I know where [the mats] are going, they’re going to people that are really homeless and need them.”