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Plarn: A Service-Learning Project Helps the Homeless

Plarn%3A+A+Service-Learning+Project+Helps+the+Homeless
Addyson McCullough

In the last six years, FGCU students have made 414 crocheted plastic mats that were donated to the homeless. These mats saved roughly 198,720 plastic bags from landfills.

By cutting plastic grocery bags and looping them together, students can create plastic yarn, also known as ‘Plarn.’ Crocheting the Plarn into a 6 feet by 3 feet rectangle creates a water resistant blanket that homeless people can sleep on, place their belongings on to keep off the wet ground and use as a rain cover. Unlike fabrics, the mats don’t need to be laundered. When they get dirty, they are easily rinsed and dried, ready to be reused. 

For the past ten years, Patty Krupp was an administrative assistant for University Colloquium. She recently changed positions at the university, but continues to facilitate service-learning projects for students, Plarn being one of them. In 2018, Krupp started meeting with a group of students periodically to create plarn out of plastic bags. Once the plastic bags were turned into plarn, Krupp would send it to churches for crochet groups to make the mats. 

During COVID, this collaboration came to a halt. Churches were no longer accepting the plarn because it had no way to be sanitized, so Krupp had to find another way to keep the project going. She decided to give students the opportunity to crochet the mats themselves, but she didn’t expect the responses students would share with her later.

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“It was really great hearing back from them because they would say, ‘my grandmother is staying with us, and she knows how to do this, so she’s helping me,’” Krupp said. “They were building connections within their family.”

Other students reached out during the pandemic with stories of crocheting the plarn helping lower their stress levels.

Addyson McCullough

Halayna Roberson is in her first year at FGCU. Her sister, Hannah Roberson, who graduated from FGCU in 2021, made plarn mats to acquire her service learning hours. Hannah encouraged Halayna Roberson to do the same when she began college. 

With a packed work and school schedule, Roberson decided this was the perfect service learning project for her. 

“I just felt really motivated to finish it on time and get it to someone in need,” Halayna Roberson said. 

Francesca Monteferrante, a junior at FGCU, is currently working on a plarn mat. She learned about the opportunity to crochet mats for homeless people in an Elements of Honors class at FGCU. 

“Once I heard about the plarn mats, I knew it would be a great way for me to get my service learning hours in and give back to the community,” Monteferrante said. 

After the mats are created, they get donated to and distributed by Lee County Homeless Coalition and Ubuntu Spirit Inc. in Fort Myers. 

Krupp had the opportunity to help distribute mats. She encountered a man who already owned a mat but wanted another to give to a friend. 

“It was a very humbling experience. I’m not really sure how to describe it, just seeing the look on their face, and them expressing their gratitude,” Krupp said. “It’s a very emotional experience. It really touches your heart. And I wish that the students could have that same experience. I think it would add another layer to what it means to do it.”

Students can find more information about plarn mats and other service learning opportunities on Eagle Link. 

 

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About the Contributor
Addyson McCullough, Eagle News Assignment & Features Editor
Addyson McCullough has had a love for writing since she could hold a pencil. In her high school English classes, she had to write a mock article and fell in love with the style of writing. She is currently a sophomore majoring in journalism. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her roommates and her hedgehog, Hamlet!

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