EAST LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- According to the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness, nearly 3,000 people spent at least one night in January 2018 without a roof over their heads and for at least a hundred others, the reality of not having a home is a daily struggle.
In the harsh winter months, the homeless population becomes even more vulnerable, which is why a group of women at an East Longmeadow church have come up with a unique way to help them stay warm.
Inside St. Mark's Episcopal Church in East Longmeadow, Betty Rennell is making a material that's high in demand this time of year.
"Plarn, it's not yarn, it's plarn, which is plastic," Rennell said.
This plastic comes from something the average household has plenty of - plastic bags from the store - and gets made into blankets for the homeless.
"We're using it to good use, which to me is great for people who really need the blankets. I feel so good about doing it," Rennell added.
Rennell is part of a group of women at the church called Aging Gently and this is just one of many things they do to keep themselves active. She explained to Western Mass News the tireless process of making a mat.
"[That's seven strips you're making?] Yup, of plarn. One bag cut into seven pieces equals one strip of plarn," Rennell noted.
Only 299 more bags to complete a blanket, but Rennell knows once done, each will make a difference.
The mat elevates you right off the cold, hard, wet ground.
"If they lay on cloth and it gets wet, it takes a long time to dry it and if you put your hands on here for a while, it gets warm," Rennell noted.
So far, two have been made. Rennell is close to finishing a third.
Father Peter Swarr said that donations of bags at the church have been a big help to this cause, keeping Rennell busy.
"Betty, you've been blessing people by taking trash and turning it into other people's treasure." Swarr noted.
As soon as this weekend, two bags will be delivered to someone in need.
"We're able to go directly to that population and offer them it. [As soon as this weekend huh?] Yup, we'll get them out there this Sunday," Swarr said.
Rennell added, "I just love this. They need it so bad and I've got to keep making 'em."
Saint Mark's Episcopal Church did say they are always looking for more bags and volunteers for the Aging Gently group.
If you have bags you would like to donate, you can drop them off at 1 Porter Road in East Longmeadow.
For more information or if you have questions, contact the church at (413) 525-6341