Nine Sleeping Mats Donated to the Soup Opera 

Abby Peterman, Staff Reporter

Members of the Creative Sustainability Council went to the Soup Opera on Friday, September 17th around 4:00 pm to donate nine sleeping mats. These sleeping mats are made by cutting up plastic shopping bags to make plastic yarn or “plarn”, then crocheting the plarn into mats. These mats help keep people experiencing homelessness warm in colder weather and they provide cushioning as well. Senta Chmiel, her daughter Rebecca Chmiel, and Dixie Downs are three of the ladies that made the sleeping mats.  

This project started when Rebecca Chmiel was trying to do community service in a more independent style. Ms. Chmiel said, “I first got involved in the project when I saw a video online where a girl explained how to make the mats. I then remembered the project at Fairmont State where they were doing something similar. Through plastic bags already at my house, and others from Fairmont State, I taught myself how to make plarn (plastic yarn) and crochet them together to make the first mat completed for this project.” 

Her mother ended up getting into contact with the Creative Sustainability Council and when Rebecca Chmiel finished one mat, they took it to the Soup Opera. The people working at the Soup Opera liked the sleeping mat and requested that more be made. In order to make more, the Chmiels asked for help from some retired friends. Dixie Downs is one of these women and she has crocheted six out of the nine mats that were donated. Downs is happy to help with this project and said, “It is a blessing to me to use my God given talents to help those who are less fortunate.”  

Misty Tennant, The Soup Opera’s Director, saw the mats and told us that she is “excited to hand them out.” Then Tennant explained how the Soup Opera is helping the homeless during the pandemic. They serve food at the door in to-go containers, but pre-covid, they would serve 100 people indoors every day. Then she gave the members of the CSC a tour of the two-story building. The kitchen and pantry are located on the first floor. Then, on the second floor, there is a room full of donated clothing and shoes. There are also bathrooms where people can come in to get a shower every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 

The Soup Opera also gives out gifts around the holidays. Tennant said they start collecting donations of brand new boots, blankets, overalls, gloves, and hats in November so they are ready to be wrapped in December. Volunteers are always needed to help make and serve food as well as other events like gift-wrapping or the festival of lights at Morris Park. If you would like to volunteer, donate food and clothing, or learn more you can contact the Soup Opera at their email address [email protected] 

Another way to volunteer is to help make plarn and crochet mats. Members of the CSC are excited to start getting more involved in making these mats. Students have been collecting plastic shopping bags and making balls of plarn. A few members of the CSC are learning how to crochet the sleeping mats and hope to get at least two mats finished in October. The Honors Association is also helping out by setting up a permanent “plarning” station in the Honors office in Turley 231. If you have any plastic bags you would like to donate, you can bring them to the Honors office or take them to a drop-off box in any of the residence halls.