Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 16 October 2012 13:54
For almost a year, a group of women at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Marion have been making unique sleeping mats for people in Haiti.
Irma Meisinger, one of the women involved in the project, said they reuse between 500 and 700 plastic grocery bags to make one sleeping mat.
“Some ladies cut the bags into two-inch strips, either with scissors or a cutting board,” she said. “Then others take the strips and tie them together.
“Once they get a whole bunch, the strips are rolled up into balls and ready for two other ladies to take them home and do the crocheting.”
Meisinger said the idea for the 3-foot-by-6-foot bedrolls came from a 2011 fall meeting of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.
“They showed us what they were doing and how when the (sleeping) mats were completed they were sent to Haiti or other countries,” she said.
The sleeping mats, according to Meisinger, are “literally” used for sleeping and they are easy to carry, not too heavy and when someone needs a place to lay down, they have the mat with them.
Most of the mats are made for adults, she said, but they would be satisfactory for children, too.
“The way it was explained to us about how the mats are used,” Meisinger said, “is that they can lay them in the water and flip them over and lay them in the sun to dry.”
One woman said she made a mat for herself and washed it in the machine and tumble dried it.
Who makes what?
Meisinger said Ruth Lange, Rosalie Schmidtberger and Rebecca Gillet make the quilts.
Schmidtberger said her husband used to tease her about taking a good piece of material and cutting it up and then sewing it back together.
“I said I see you taking a perfectly good board and sawing it up.”
The crocheting of plastic bags into sleeping mats is done by Lois Johnson, LaVaughn Klose, Meisinger and Lange.
Meisinger said it takes about six weeks to complete a mat.
“The girls that do the crocheting,” she said, “take them home and work on them around their meals and other housework.”
One of the ladies crocheting said if she can sit down and work only on that project, it goes faster and it’s a lot more fun.
The ladies who fold, cut, tie and roll the plastic bags to make the sleeping mats are Marlene Bernhardt, Bonnie Schmidt, Aileen Hanschu, Nova Bruner, Lois Johnson, Jane Gooding, Karon Hess, Meisinger and Klose.
Johnson makes the pillows,?Meisinger said, used old materials and stuffing them with Polyfil.
One of the ladies in the group said Thursday was a good day to meet because nothing else was going on for most of them.
Meisinger said everyone helping has a hobby and a common interest.
“We all found our niche doing different things,” she said.
The group didn’t meet in August, she said, because a lot of the ladies were working with vacation bible school activities.
“Some of the ladies that didn’t do VBS said they really missed it because it was a social gathering to them, along with doing something to help others,” she said.
“We make something good for other people,” she said. “A lot of other congregations who do World Relief quilts, mats and pillows did this long before we started here.”
One woman said in Kansas City, a group of women were making sleeping mats for homeless people there.
Orphan Grain Train
Thus far, the ladies group have made 45 sleeping mats, 78 quilts and 51 pillows which are delivered at a location near Herington and then are picked up by the Orphan Grain Train.
Lois Johnson, another member of the Thursday group, said the Orphan Grain Train started in Nebraska for children.
“(The grain train) would go around and get loads of grain,” she said, “but not everybody had grain,” she said, which led to change.
Today, she said, companies volunteer trucks, which take food to disaster areas or other places around the world.
The items go to the Orphan Grain Train and then to the Lutheran World Relief Organization.
“Half of whatever they get goes overseas and the other half stays in the U.S. to help in disaster areas,” Johnson said.
A couple of ladies from the Marion church drive to the drop-off point and deliver the handmade items.
One of the women said they don’t take any women’s clothes because she thought they get “bombarded” with those types of things.
The Orphan Grain Train also puts out a newsletter and, one of the ladies said that every time she sees one of the Haiti people pictured with a mat, she wonders if it was one made in Marion.
Meisinger said they also have visitors come on Thursdays.
“One man, who is a member of our church, brought in bags and tied with us,” she said.
Everyone working on Thursdays agreed the two hours offers them a time for fellowship and joked it was a chance to “solve the problems of the world.”
Meisinger said: “We have a good time getting together.”