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Cabarrus Magazine

Charlotte Resident Haylah is Creating Mats for the Homeless Out of Recycled Grocery Bags

Dec 28, 2017 05:25PM ● By Melanie Heisinger
Local Charlotte resident Haylah Wagner is creating mats for the homeless out of recycled grocery bags, and she needs your help.

Grocery bags are incredibly common in most people's shopping experience. However, they can't be recycled and often end up in the landfill.

Wagner is creating mats that take up to 1000 plastic bags to create. Not only is this helping our landfills, the mats are bug resistant, dry easy, are lightweight, cost nothing but time, and help to prevent hypothermia. Her goal is to create 40 mats to donate to the Salvation Army and the local VA hospital. Both organizations have agreed to accept them.

New Hope Worship Center and Cold Springs UMC have agreed to crochet the mats as well as some employees at the VA Hospital, family and friends. Local Girl Scout troops are helping with the creation of the "plarn" -- plastic yarn. Both churches will continue the project once Wagner has reached her goal.

But where did this inspiration come from? Over the summer, Wagner visited Canada and couldn't help but notice the numerous amounts of homeless.

What really solidified her goals of philanthropy was the Hornet's Nest Girl Scout council. They host a Cardboard Campout yearly that allows the girls to hear the stories of homeless people, as well as how they got there. These people share their struggles and the lack of resources they experience daily.

The campout is finished by each girl spending the night in a cardboard box in order to experience what it's like to live in such conditions.

After hearing these stories, combined with her experience while in Canada, Wagner created her house out of cardboard with the help of her troop and spent the night inside of it. She, along with the other girls, woke up cold and had a greater realization for what it means to be homeless.

These experiences helped her to determine her Gold Award project of helping the homeless in a small way. (Pictured above)

She is looking for volunteers that are willing to help flatten bags, cut bags into strips, and create the "plarn" needed to create the mats. We wanted to get all the information we could about this inspiring local project, and Wagner was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. 

Tell us a little bit about your story. What inspired you to start this project?

Over the summer I went to Canada and saw so many homeless people everywhere. It hit me hard and then I started to think about the amount of homeless in Charlotte. That's when I decided I wanted to do something to help, even if it wasn't a lot.

I then started doing some research about what I could do to help, then I stumbled across these mats. The extra bonus that I love about these mats is that not only do they give the homeless a blanket or a place to lay, but they keep 1000 bags out of the landfill per mat.

I also wanted to make sure that this product was good for the homeless community. I remembered back to when I did this event entitled "Cardboard Campout". At this event, two people came and talked to us about their experience of being homeless and what we could possibly do to help. That night we all camped out on the lawn at the Girl Scout Center. We had created houses out of tarps and cardboard. When I woke up the next morning I was freezing and wet from the dew. I thought about everyone out there that didn't have a warm place to go to or a blanket to cover up with.

The morning of that campout I had a sleeping bag and I had a warm building to go into as well as something warm to drink. These homeless people of Charlotte have none of that. The mats I am creating for my Gold Award will hopefully provide a blanket for them or a place to lay down.

Some other bonuses of these mats is that they are "worthless" -- meaning nobody will try to steal from them. They are bug resistant, dry easily and provide warmth due to the insulation type material. 

How has the response been in the community? Do you feel supported?

The response in the community has been amazing. I have Cold Springs United Methodist Church and New Hope Worship Center helping to make the mats. I also have the Salvation Army and the V.A. Hospital distributing them. There are so many people in the community wanted to help including Trinity United Church of Christ, Boys and Girls Club, Trailblazers Girl Scout troops, and various people throughout the community. 

How successful has it been so far?

Although we haven't started to distribute the mats, I feel everything has been going well. I have so many people willing to help but if I could get even more help I feel this project could impact more lives. 

What has been the most memorable moment so far?

The most memorable part so far has been when I went to the Boys and Girls Club and got to share my story with some of the kids. It was great seeing them get so excited to help. Asking if they could bring in bags from home and even work on it at home. It made me so happy to see a younger generation excited to give back to the community. 

Do you have any other hobbies you enjoy?

In my free time I enjoy drawing and painting. Art has always been a part of my life and I really enjoy expressing myself through it. 

What do you hope will happen in the future with your project for the homeless?

I hope that it will become widespread and that more people will want to do things to help out the homeless. 

What's the best way for someone to help you and your mission?

The best way for people to help with my project is to make plarn or crochet mats. If more people make plarn and crochet mats this project could reach more people.

You can join our cause or keep up with the project at

How To Make a PLARN Bed Roll

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