Sarasota woman crochets grocery bags into mats for the homeless

500 grocery bags makes one mat

SARASOTA, Fla. — A Sarasota woman is using grocery bags to make mats for the homeless.

At first, Michele Penn admits she had no idea what she was doing. 

"I didn't know how to crochet. I didn't know how to do any of this," said Michele Penn.

Penn saw a Facebook video showing a group of women crocheting at a church in Ohio. 

"I taught myself how to do it. I couldn't do it fast enough. My first one took me 33 hours to make," said Penn.

Penn has made at least 40 mats so far. She gives some to the Salvation Army and passes out others on her own. 

"I say, can I take a picture of you holding it up? They do. They always hold it up and have a big smile," said Penn.

Penn creates the mats by collecting plastic bags. She cuts them up and loops them together to create yarn (plarn). She crochets the bags together. 

It takes 500 plastic bags and 10 hours to make one mat.

"If the ground is hot or wet, they can put these down and put a blanket on top of it and they're really much more comfortable," said Penn.

Penn started teaching others to make mats at her house. She also taught free classes at Goodwill. 

She is willing to teach anyone who is willing to learn. 

"I use to be that person who would walk by a homeless person and not talk to them and this gives me a reason to sort of give back and do what I can," said Penn. 

Goodwill named Penn "Ambassador of the Year" in 2018. The award is given to people who spread the mission of Goodwill and volunteer their time. 

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