Sleeping Mat Ministry: Helping Homeless Veterans

WAYNE – On this edition of In Focus, we meet area citizens who are working on a special project to help some of Nebraska’s homeless population.

A small group meets the first Thursday and third Monday of every month officially, but many of those participating in Our Savior Lutheran Church’s Sleeping Mat Ministry work independently to make sleeping mats that go to the Veterans Community Resource and Referrals Center in Omaha, according to director of senior ministry, Deb Hammer.

“That’s where they have councilors and people that would work with the veterans that are homeless, one-on-one, and then when they meet with them, that’s when they give them the mats,” Hammer said.

Lots of time and effort goes into the mats before they make it to their veterans though. The material used to make these mats can be found in every retail and grocery store, and in many cases, people have tons of them in their own homes – plastic shopping bags. Sleeping Mat Ministry participants help fold donated bags, cut them, turn them into “plarn” or plastic yarn, roll the plarn into balls and finally crochet them into 6 foot by 3 foot mats. This crafty project not only helps homeless veterans, but also the planet.

“It does take 800 bags to make sleeping mat, and so that’s a lot of bags that would be going to the landfill,” Hammer said.

Those who make the mats have found that their hard work pays off when they hear stories about what the mats mean to their recipients.

“Even when a homeless person finally gets their first apartment, they don’t have money for furniture, so often this mat may be their first bed even, you know, something they’ve used and they never even want to get rid of it because it’s like a security blanket for them because it’s helped them get through some of the roughest times” Hammer said. “So, you hear stories like that and it just makes you melt and this is right here in Omaha, Nebraska.”

This project has become a multi-generational  with young and old working on mats, and you don’t have to be a member of Our Savior to participate. Groups from Integrated Life Choices and nursing homes have helped with the project as well. Many volunteers specialize in one area, whether that be folding, creating the plarn or crocheting, and the Sleeping Mat Ministry welcomes newcomers.

“If they want to learn how to do it, the best time to come would be that first Thursday of every month and the third Monday of every month between 9 and 11 if you want to learn how to do it new and if those times don’t work just come to Our Savior and see me,” Hammer said.

The group meets in one of the activities room in the Church, and Hammer said they could use a few more crocheters. Over the two years they have been working on the project the Sleeping Mat Ministry has donated 29 mats and have another 15 ready to be donated. For more information about the Sleeping Mat Ministry, contact Deb Hammer at Our Savior Lutheran Church at (402) 375-2899.

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