Elk River Area Women of Today makes mats from recycled plastic bags for people who are homeless

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Members of the Elk River Area Women of Today gathered around a table at the Elk River Library, visiting as they cut up recycled plastic bags and crocheted them into mats for people who are homeless.

“There’s a job for everybody to do,” said Arlene Beach, of Elk River. She was busy turning the strips of plastic into “plarn” or plastic yarn.

It takes 600 to 800 plastic bags to make one mat, and each 3-by-6-foot mat takes approximately 30 hours to construct. The finished mat has handles so it can easily be rolled up and carried around.

The Women of Today members have been making the plastic mats on the first Monday of the month at the library for about a year.

“I love to crochet, so I think it’s fun,” said LaNette Bies, treasurer of the Elk River Area Women of Today. “We like getting together and working on it.”

The project also fits one of the Women of Today’s missions of service to others.

The Women of Today members got the pattern for the mats from Weaving Love, a Big Lake-based non-profit.

They give their completed mats to Weaving Love, which distributes them to people who are homeless.

Meet and greet planned

Making mats for people who are homeless is just one of the projects carried out by members of the Elk River Area Women of Today.

The chapter was established in 1990 and currently has nine members.

“We are a very friendly, down-to-earth group of ladies that love spending time together visiting and doing projects in Elk River to better the community,” said Bies, of Elk River.

President Lisa Fletcher, also from Elk River, said she hopes to see membership grow so they can take on more projects and activities.

A meet and greet event where people can learn more about the Elk River Area Women of Today will be Wednesday, Nov. 13. See more below.

Of the nine members, Betty Swan, of Elk River, has been in the group the longest — since 1992. She is recently retired from Great River Energy, where she was a records manager. Swan said one of the chapter’s charter members gave her a Women of Today membership as a gift after she started attending the group’s activities.

Asked what she has liked about the organization, she said, “It’s the people.”

The Women of Today is based around the three pillars of service, growth and friendship.

Besides making the mats, the chapter has a From the Heart bread program where they pick up day-old bread from Cub, Coborn’s and Perkins and deliver it to local schools and the Boys and Girls Club. They also have been involved in community projects like the Relay for Life, Adopt a Family, holiday events and making sandwiches for people who are homeless, and support a variety of causes from March of Dimes to Girl Scouts to Can Do Canines.

They earn their donation money by running a brat and hot dog stand in May at Coborn’s and by cleaning up after Albertville Friendly City Days in June.

The chapter also offers opportunities for personal growth and to develop friendships.

The chapter meets at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of the month at Guardian Angels, 350 Evans Ave., Elk River.

Other standing dates are:

•The Weaving Love workshop making mats for the homeless is at 5:30 p.m. the first Monday of the month at the Elk River Library, 13020 Orono Parkway.

•A board meeting is held at 5:30 p.m. the first Thursday of the month at various local restaurants.

•Members play bingo at the Elk River American Legion, 525 Railroad Drive, at 6:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month.

•Members meet for breakfast at Panera Bread, 18210 Zane St., Elk River, 9:30 a.m. the last Saturday of the month.

For more information, go to www.erawt.org.

If you go

What: Elk River Area Women of Today Meet and Greet

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13

Where: Pizza Ranch, 19141 Freeport St, Elk River

For more information:www.erawt.org or call 612-202-1009 (Lisa) or 612-245-0438 (LaNette)

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