Nearly blind Kansas woman creates mats for the homeless
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The internet offers tutorials galore for crocheting plastic bags into sleeping mats, and Pat Thompson has taken those lessons to heart.
Every morning Thompson, who is almost blind, makes her way to a comfortable chair in her daughter Amy Mitchell’s Hutchinson home. She suffers from glaucoma and has an only blurry vision in half of one eye.
“I do this by feel,” said Thompson demonstrating her crocheting skill.
She finds great joy sitting in the chair, with a large crochet hook in hand, weaving yellow, beige and white strips of plastic grocery bags into mats for homeless people, while listening to music or audiobooks, The Hutchinson News reported.
It has become part of a ministry at First Church of the Nazarene, with members of the congregation keeping plastic grocery bags for Thompson. Then Rosalie Smith takes the bags to Thompson, who works with her daughter cutting the bags into strips. The strips are tied together and rolled them into large balls, the way a knitter does yarn.
Thompson has turned the project into her ministry. Over the past year and a half, she has created 105 mats. On a recent morning, she was working on the 106th mat. She has worn out one crochet hook in the process.
“We are reaching out in love,” said Rosalie Smith, who helps keep Thompson in plastic bags. The finished mats are never sold but donated locally to First Call for Help and the Salvation Army. They are also giving them to Wichita’s Union Rescue Mission. Some of the youth from First Nazarene are headed to Houston for a mission trip in July and will be taking Thompson’s mats to the homeless in that city.
Thompson has never met a recipient of her handiwork, but she feels a connection.
“I just know they need help and this is what I can do to help,” Thompson said.
With each mat, she prays for the receiver. She hopes it will show them that God loves them.
“And I love them,” Thompson said. “And maybe it will give them some comfort.”
While Thompson was spending her morning crocheting, across town at First Call for Help, Marily Graham said she was grateful to have the mats for those in need.
“This is like a mission of mercy,” said Graham. “We hand them out to homeless people who aren’t in the shelter. They are the ones sleeping under the bridges and in the parks.
As Graham spoke, a man was in the front office receiving one of Thompson’s mats. Just released from corrections, it would be several weeks before he could get into an Oxford House.
“We are fixing him up with mat, and it has a long strap to carry across the back, it is so wonderfully light it is not a burden,” Graham said.
Graham laid on one of Thompson’s mats on the ground in the parking lot for the experience.
“It was awesome,” Graham said. “I didn’t feel the rocks. People will cherish them.” The bags work well because they keep moisture, cold and sand off of people. They can be rinsed as well when they are dirty.
Graham notices people in the mornings walking from the river with their sleeping mats strung across their shoulder.
“When you have absolutely nothing, where do you start?” Graham asked.
Thompson’s sleeping mats can be a beginning. Inside each mat, there is a Book of John and a note from the church.
It’s a good way to introduce the gospel and introduce them to God’s love, both Thompson and Smith agreed.
“We tell them we are not giving it to them to offend or convert,” said Graham. “It’s just something that might be a comfort. If they don’t want it, we ask them to please share it with someone.”
The mats are not for sale; they are made exclusively to give away. With Thompson at it every day, crochet hook flying.
“Pat has already bought her ticket to heaven,” Graham said. “The mats are so appreciated by our clients and us.”
Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com