Diane Williams, center, Mary Weber (next to Diane in red shirt) and other volunteers show off sleeping mats they made for area homeless. Each mat is constructed from over 700 plastic bags and takes over 40 work hours to complete.

What started in February as a month of weekly mat-making sessions organized by Diane Williams at The Club at Town Center has spread to Aspen Lodge and beyond and shows no signs of slowing down.

Volunteers have made close to 30 mats so far. Each mat takes over 40 hours to make and contains over 700 plastic grocery bags. That means volunteers have sorted, flattened, cut, looped into “plarn” and crocheted over 21,000 bags into mats, in a process that has taken over 1200 work hours.

“We will continue so long as there is interest and the room is available,’’ said Diane.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Donate plastic grocery bags
    The Club at Town Center:
    Drop off at the front desk.
    Aspen Lodge: Drop off at the reception desk.
  2. Help assemble the mats – no experience necessary!
    The Club at Town Center:
    Fridays from 9:45 am-noon
    Aspen Lodge
    : Mondays from 12:45-3 pm   

Read more: The following story was written by Sierra Canyon residents Mary Weber and Catherine Tollstrup.

What Can We Do to Help?

Have you ever wondered how you can help to make our community a better place to live for those less fortunate? 

Local resident Diane Williams began a project in 2019 at Town Square that Catherine Tollstrup of Del Webb then brought to the Aspen Lodge.  The very social activity addresses and partially remedies a couple of Reno’s palpable concerns – the hardships of the homeless population and the need to protect our environment.  

It only takes a drive down 4th St. or along the river to make you aware of the number of homeless people we have in the Reno/Sparks area.  Though some indoor shelters are available during the winter, once spring hits, these unfortunate folks are forced to sleep outside on the ground or sidewalks.    

About a hundred billion plastic bags are used every year in the U.S. alone.  While some people are still blissfully unaware of the repercussions that are occurring because of these modern conveniences, most know of the damage caused and really want to make a difference. Plastic bags are responsible for causing pollution, killing marine and wildlife, and using up the precious resources of the Earth (HDPE from Natural Gas and Petroleum). One of the worst environmental effects is that they are non-biodegradable as the decomposition can take up to 1,000 years.  Yes, you read correctly.

We now have an amazing and fun solution to these two community problems – making sleeping mats for the homeless – out of plastic grocery bags that would otherwise end up in landfills or waterways.[

There are currently two mat-making groups in Somersett at:

Aspen Lodge on Mondays from 12:45-3 pm        or

The Club at Town Center on Fridays from 9:45 am-noon.

No experience is necessary to get started and you don’t even have to know how to crochet.  There is a need for people to:

  • Sort bags
  • Flatten bags
  • Cut bags
  • Loop the cut bags into ‘plarn’ balls
  • Donate clean plastic grocery bags.  [If you are really ambitious, you could flatten these bags and fold them in quarters lengthwise].
  • Store bags

Any age or gender is welcome to participate in this fun community effort.

It takes approximately 700-750 bags to complete one mat and about 40 hours total from start to finish! So you can see your help is needed.

Following are locations for you to drop off your clean and untorn plastic grocery bags:

  • The Club at Town Center front desk – daily
  • Aspen Lodge reception desk – daily
  • Nature’s Plus Natural Organics – 4660 Aircenter Circle in Reno – In a labeled bin outside on the West side of the building.  Weekends only from 9 am-4 pm.

The mats are distributed to the homeless through the efforts of the Salvation Army.  We hope to have at least 30 of these mats available for the Military Stand Down event to be held in Reno in mid-September.  This event is an effort to provide needed clothing, services and other goods to veterans in need.

This project will go on as long as there is a need and active participation so please drop off your unwanted bags and consider joining in on this gratifying activity.