Home sweet home. However varied among Cedarville students, homesickness is a reality of living on campus. But imagine what it would be like to have no home at all.
As a seasonal resident of Springfield, Eanes has a special burden for the homeless. While in Scottsdale, Arizona, her home for the winter months, Eanes learned of a project for the displaced portion of the population. The project involves three materials: plastic bags, scissors and a crochet hook. The result? Crocheted plastic mats.
Each mat measures 42 inches x 72 inches, requires 700 plastic bags, and takes approximately 72 hours to complete. Once enough bags are collected, each bag must be folded and cut into strips, each bag yielding about eight strips, that are knotted together to make “plarn,” or plastic yarn.
These plastic mats provide a barrier between the wet and cold and the bodies of those living on the streets. The bigger the mat, the more comfort and security. They provide an improvised “home” for those without one. These mats allow the owner to lay sideways and use part of the mat as a covering for warmth.
“Even if (the mats) are just thrown out in the mud, (they can be) hosed off. You don’t have to wash it or anything,” Eanes said. “They are sturdy. They are not going to fall apart.”
A 40-year veteran to crocheting, Eanes has recently taken on a student. Cooley Turner, the spouse of her husband’s close childhood friend, has been eager to help Eanes with her mat project.
Turner, a Cedarville custodian for 29 years, cleans everything on campus from carpet and hard floors to sinks and toilets. He said the servile nature of his job does not bother him.
“I used to think that if Jesus came back today, he’d be a custodian, because if he washed feet, there’s not a whole lot of difference in going to someone and saying, ‘I’m going to clean your toilets so you can have a nice seat to sit down on,’” Turner said.
Turner said everything that is done to serve mankind is serving the Lord. He referenced Matthew 25:40, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
To help Eanes crochet mats, Turner said he has been perfecting his crocheting skills by crocheting 6-inch-by-6-inch squares. He will donate these squares to Blocks to Blankets, a community service project sponsored by the United Senior Services which has a main branch in Springfield.
A group of volunteers, led by Linda Deaton, has been crafting donated knitted and crocheted squares into blankets for various groups in need.
Over 40 blankets were given away at their fall “Great Blanket Giveaway” Oct. 27. Jane Skogstrom, who works at United Senior Services, said the event was a success.
“A blanket can make the difference between life or death in some situations, and it’s nice to know that people care,” Skogstrom said.
When Donna Fifer, the manager of the Hive at Cedarville, heard about Turner’s interest in helping Eanes with the project, Fifer said she decided to start a collection box in the Hive so the student workers could help gather plastic bags for Turner.
After emailing her workers, Fifer said she was pleased to see many bringing in their plastic bags to contribute to the cause.
“We are just very impressed with what he’s doing. He’s a good man,” Fifer said.
One student worker, Kayleigh Rowlands, a member of the Lady Jackets varsity soccer team, said she wanted to do more to help.
Rowlands said the women’s soccer team is interested in adopting this ministry as one of its team projects for the year.
“When Cooley came into the Hive and showed us these amazing mats he had been working on, I knew it was a perfect opportunity,” Rowlands said. “We are a large team with willing hearts, ready to serve in whatever capacity is necessary.”
Turner met with the team earlier this month to explain how they can make mats, and he taught them the process of turning plastic bags into yarn. He also showed them how to make the squares that are used to make blankets for Blocks to Blankets.
The team started working that night to make balls of plarn, and a few team members have also expressed their willingness to do the actual crocheting.
“The girls were very interested, and they were all so sweet and kind to me. These girls are great,” Turner said.
Rowlands said the team desires to serve God and be a blessing to others.
“We are just ready to be used in whatever way we are needed and hopefully show God’s love in the process,” Rowlands said.
Eanes said she feels a sense of responsibility when it comes to ministry.
She referenced Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
“I know that it’s my duty, actually, to do this type of thing to give back, because I am blessed,” Eanes said. “(I am) giving back in every way that I can so that the benefits I have received in this life continue.”
Even with Turner’s help, that of the Hive and the women’s soccer team, crocheting plastic mats takes more than a few hands. Eanes said she has only completed three mats so far because of the large amount of bags required for just one mat. Organizations that are suited to properly distribute mats such as these prefer to distribute them in large amounts.
“I wouldn’t want to go (to deliver to them) with two or three,” Eanes said. “I’d want to take a load and let them use their best judgment, they know the people who are actually sleeping on the streets.”
Contact Donna Fifer (dfifer@cedarville. edu) or Cooley Turner (firstname.lastname@example.org) to see how you can donate plastic bags for plarn.
Susanna Edwards is a freshman middle childhood education major and an arts & entertainment writer for Cedars. She is a member of the CU Forensics team, vice president of Students for Life, and also enjoys singing in OneVoice.