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St Matthias parishioners find projects, fill needs

Northeast Ohio Catholic Magazine

January 18, 2019

Most of us have dozens of plastic bags piling up at home but may not have a use for them.

A group of parishioners at St. Matthias Church in Parma heard about a way to recycle the bags into mats that can provide a dry, warm and comfortable sleeping surface for homeless persons.

St Matthias Mats Group Shot

It’s one of the parish’s “Find a Need and Fill It” projects. Patti Bertschler explained that she made a proposal to Father Ray Sutter, St. Matthias pastor, about a series of short-term projects that could help fill unmet needs. Her idea was to have one project per quarter. The proposal went to Parish Council

and got the blessing of both Father Ray and the pastoral council. Then a group of parishioners got busy finding and filling some needs.

The first quarter of 2018 they sewed 308 angel gowns from old bridal gowns. The baby gowns are donated to parents whose infants die or are stillborn. The tiny dresses can be used as burial gowns.

The second quarter project was to collect old, unused eyeglasses. “We got more than 500 pairs and donated them to the Metanoia program at St. Malachi Parish (in Cleveland),” Patti said.

The third quarter project was the largest undertaking so far: making mats for the homeless. Patti said she heard about a woman from St.Victor Parish in Richfield who makes the mats and she came to teach the St. Matthias group — and a few other interested people — how to do it.

It involved collecting thousands of plastic grocery-type bags — it takes 700-750 bags to make each mat. The bags must be flattened, and then cut into strips and the strips connected to create “plarn” — plastic yard — that is used to make the mats. The unneeded parts of the bags — like the handles — are recycled.

The plarn is rolled into balls and crocheted with a large crochet hook into a six-foot by four-foot mat. The group made 45 mats and delivered them to the Metanoia program, which will distribute the mats to those who need them.

St Matthias Mats

“People of all skill levels and abilities could work on the project,” Patti explained. She said some sorted and flattened the bags while others cut the strips. Some people created the plarn and rolled it into balls while others crocheted the mats. Each mat is unique, depending on the color and type of plastic bag used to create the plarn.

The group’s fourth quarter project was to purchase Legos and slippers for nearly three dozen Puerto Ri- can children who settled in Greater Cleveland after being displaced by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

Father Ray said the parish also helped build seven homes in Haiti. “It’s all about filling a need,” Patti said.

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