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First Swainsboro ladies turn grocery sacks into mats for homeless


Gilbert Westberry

Left to right, Jane Barns, Martha Bouchillon, Angie Meeks, Phyllis Baker, and Edna Dixon are among those at First Baptist Swainsboro who have been creating mats for the homeless out of discarded plastic grocery bags.

Plastic grocery sacks are the indoor version of kudzu. After every re-stocking of the fridge and pantry they remain on the counter for a time before being thrown in the trash or added to the already-too-large mound of bags.

Women at First Baptist Swainsboro are taking that abundance to help people with little of their own, gathering the fourth Wednesday of each month to use discarded grocery sacks to create sleeping mats for the homeless.

“We do this like an assembly line,” said Jean Morgan, missions chairperson for First Baptist WMU. “About 25-30 women are involved. The bags are folded, cut into long strips, and passed to another group who roll them into balls. Those then go to workers using knitting needles to crochet a six-by-three foot mat.”

Typically it takes ten to twelve hours to make each mat, Morgan stated. “The procedure is time consuming and calls for close coordination.”

Completed mats are distributed to various local agencies including Golden Harvest Food Bank, Mercy Mission, the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office, church mission groups, schools, and shelters for the homeless. Some shelters have waiting lists for completed mats. The ministry began around seven months ago.

“It’s been any eye-opener to see that kind of need here,” remarked Morgan on Swainsboro’s homeless.