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Sleeping mats made from plastic bags go to HomePlate Youth Services, which provides resources to homeless Washington County youth

COURTESY PHOTO - Cornelius Public Library staff member Emily Antonelli (left) handed over two plastic mats to representatives from HomePlate Youth Services, who will give them to young people sleeping outside. The plastic sleeping mats Cornelius Public Library staff and patrons started this summer are now completed and in the hands of those who need them.

Bianetth Valdez and Emiko Smukler of HomePlate Youth Services — a Beaverton non-profit that provides services for homeless youth — came out to accept the donated mats in September. They plan to give the mats to youths who need some comfort while sleeping outside.

Emily Antonelli, circulation and volunteer coordinator at the Cornelius library, got the idea for weaving sleeping mats out of plastic bags when researching how to reuse items. Finding a way to help the homeless was also on her mind because she frequently works with homeless patrons who use the library's services and come in to cool down or warm up.

A few Cornelius library users got together in July to cut plastic bags into long strips to make "plarn," or plastic yarn. They then crocheted the strips together to make reusable sleeping mats that could provide a barrier between a homeless person and the ground.

The mats don't mold and can even be rolled up and used for a pillow. They're also lightweight and easy to transport and clean. The finished mats are about three feet wide and six feet long.

One downfall of the project? The mats do take a while to make.

They were sitting in the Cornlius library for a while waiting for volunteers to finish them until one regular patron took them home to finish in time to donate to HomePlate before the colder weather arrives.

The project also attracted the attention of social workers from Luke Dorf, a Portland nonprofit that supports people with mental illnesses and related challenges such as homelessness.

Other Washington County libraries are also on board to try out such projects, Antonelli said, so those who are interested should contact their local librarians.

That was the goal all along for Antonelli: Starting conversations about what individuals can do to help those in need, even something as seemingly small as making a plastic mat.



By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
503-357-3181
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