Friday, September 28, 2012

Mats For The Homeless

            When I was growing up the lady next door used to always yell at me for sitting on the cement, claiming that it was the root cause of many ailments.  Of course I was young and didn’t listen, but now I’m older and a little wiser and avoid sitting on the cement at all costs.

The homeless of course, can’t avoid it.  They don’t have the luxury of a chair or a bed to relax in.  Their seat is the cement, which is always cold and uncomfortable.  A group of women from St. Edna’s Catholic Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois learned about mats made from plastic bags which would insulate the user from the cold.  They quickly attended a “how-to” training session and started a ministry. 

The response to the project has been outstanding with parishioners, school children and scout groups helping out collecting, cutting and rolling the bags into balls of “yarn.”  Those who know how to crochet bring the balls of plastic yarn home and crochet them into 3 foot by 6 foot mats.  Since January of 2011, St. Edna’s has donated 108 mats to the Cornerstone Ministries in the Uptown area of Chicago.  It is a project to be proud of that involves a community of people with different skills working together to help others.


Directions to make the mat are as follows:


Supplies:  Plastic grocery bags (500 – 700 bags per mat)



                 Crochet Hook, size L/8mm or larger


To cut bags:

  1. Flatten bag
  2. Fold sideways and in half, then in half again.
  3. Cut off bottom seams and handles.
  4. Cut bag in strips of 2 ½ or 3 inches wide.
  5. Make yarn by looping one ring inside of the other, then, pulling through itself.  Continue with all the rings.  Roll into a ball of “yarn.”
  6. Using single crochet, make a mat 30 to 36 inches wide by 6 feet long.  Make 1 chain stitch turning chain at the end of each row, single crochet in second chain from hook.
  7. You can make a carrying strap by single crocheting 2 rows wide by 80 inches long, weaving the ends together to make a loop.


Note:  If using thick bags, cut them into 2 inch or 2 ½ inch wide strips.  Thin bags (dry cleaning bags) 3 ½ inch or 4 inch wide strips.


If you are interested in attending a training session, St. Edna’s will hold one on Saturday November 10 from 9:30 am to 11 am. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bernie's Book Bank

            Some bands started in garages, why not a charitable book organization? 

In 2008, Bernie’s Book Bank founder Brian Floriani had given up working as a golf professional and had become a reading paraprofessional for Shiloh Park Elementary School in Zion, Illinois.  In one short year, he came to the realization that most of the children he worked with did not have books at home.  The time and energy on reading intervention, while worthwhile, could be prevented if those children had books.  It was a need that Brian decided should be fulfilled.  Somebody had to do something, why not him? 

            Since 2009, Bernie’s Book Bank, has moved from Brian Floriani’s garage to a warehouse and has distributed more than 900,000 children’s books to at-risk children.  That number is expected to reach one million by November 1st.

The success of the book bank is dependent on volunteers and donations.  Many have answered the call.  Children have donated the proceeds of their lemonade stands.  Families have collected books to donate.  Volunteers help sort and package the books.  It is a community effort that was started by a man who looked for a cure instead of a band-aid. 

Bernie’s Book Bank now serves more than 55,000 children throughout the Chicagoland area – and ALL at-risk children 0 to 12 years of age living in Lake County -- who each receive a minimum of 12 books per year. Three years from now, all children in Lake County, Illinois will have received 60 books from Bernie’s Book Bank by the time they step into the door of their kindergarten classroom.  This is just the beginning of a great endeavor to give our children a great start to a great future.

            More information about the history of Bernie’s Book Bank and ways in which you can help can be found on their website:   

           A special thanks to Catherine Driscoll for the wonderful information about Bernie's Book Bank and for providing the photo.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's Not The Teacher's Fault

            The teacher’s strike in Chicago is over.  The kids are back to school and the teachers are back to work.  One thing that has stuck in mind since the strike began is the complaint from the teachers that test scores are artificially low because most of the kids are taking the tests hungry.  The teachers claimed that most of their students get the majority of their nutrition from school lunches.  I don’t doubt that.  But, this is not something for the teacher’s union or the school board to address.  This is a community problem. 

            In North Ridgeville Ohio, the Community Care Center noticed that by the last week of the month, families were running out of food stamps.  They contacted churches throughout the area and asked if they would host a community dinner one day during the last week of the month.  Everyone in the community is welcome to partake in a free meal at those churches.  Those in need are no longer faceless.  Conversations are struck between people that wouldn’t normally meet.  The hungry are fed both physically and emotionally, because they finally have a chance to feel a part of the community.  The teachers in Chicago are correct.  They cannot resolve the nutritional deficiencies of the students, but the community can.    

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cool nights, warm blankets

The nights are cooling off and it’s time to pull out the afghan blankets and winter covers.  I still have the afghan blanket handcrafted by my grandmother.  It was a present for my sixteenth birthday and has been with me through good times and bad.  It was there for me through bouts of the flu and strep throat.  It traveled with me to every station that I was assigned to while I served in the United States Air Force.  It saw the births of my two daughters and will some day belong to one of them.  Twenty nine years have passed and it’s still going strong, keeping me warm and bring me comfort.

Simply put, afghan blankets are comforting.  It can be easy to bring that comfort to those in need.  Michael’s craft store has a “Warm Up America,” drive where crafters drop off 7 inch by 9 inch squares using basic knitting or crocheting patterns.  Michael’s has volunteers who put the squares together to make an afghan blanket which is then distributed to those in need.  You don’t have to crochet or knit for Michael’s.  You can make the afghan blankets yourself and drop them off at a shelter.  You can start a group of friends to crochet or knit with you.  It doesn’t have to stop here.  The possibilities are endless.  Water the seed I just planted and see what comes up.  

Have a wonderful day…Denise

Friday, September 14, 2012

Advice From A Park Ranger

            Since this blog is about how one person can make a difference, I thought I would start with a story that some of us may be familiar with.  When visiting a National Park, we are always told by the park ranger, “Don’t pick the flowers.  You may think it’s only one flower, but thousands of people visit this park and if everyone picked a flower, there would be no flowers left.”  I’d like to take this negative message and put a positive spin on it.

With the poor economy, Food Pantries are critically low.  Some grocery stores offer 10 for $10 deals.  Most grocery stores have items on sale for a dollar or less that could be used in the food pantry.  So, if you watch the sales, it would only take a dollar a week to buy one thing to put into the Food Pantry collection basket.  You’re in the grocery store already, so you don’t have to make a special trip.  The baskets are easy to find; churches, community centers, even grocery stores have them at times.  It’s a simple way of making a difference.

Now, if we take into account a community of 100 people whether it is a church, a social club, a school etc…and every week they give one food item to the food pantry, there’s one hundred items the pantry did not have.  Within each city, there are a number of these communities, which multiplies that number.  So, instead of having no flowers for people to enjoy as the park ranger warned against, we could have food pantries filled to help others enjoy a meal.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


            There is a rock/paperweight on my desk with the following saying on it, “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something…then I realized that I am somebody.”  I have no idea when I got the rock.  I believe it was an art project in Junior High.  Now, in my forties, I’m finally realizing the true meaning behind it.  It’s easy to see a need for something to be done, but more difficult to realize that we have the power to do it.  That is what this blog is about. 

            This blog will take a look at things done by ordinary people that helped others.  Some posts you may read and shrug about.  Others you may say, “Hey, I can do that.”  Still others you might tell a friend about who would take that ball from you and run.  Whatever the path the seed of my posts takes, my hope is that it finds somewhere that it can grow and spread. 

            If you have a seed that you want to plant, please email me at sowaseednow at gmail dot com.