Providing comfort and support

HUBBARD — Hubbard Public Library’s Mats of Love project weaves blessings on multiple levels.

On the face of it, the project provides help to the homeless by turning plastic bags into bedding. Beyond that, it’s also good for the environment and it provides companionship of all age levels to its volunteers.

“The concept of Mats of Love is to provide a little comfort and support for people experiencing homelessness and let them know that someone cares and is thinking of them,” said Amy Zell, teen and patron technology services assistant at Hubbard Public Library.

Intergenerational volunteers create 4-foot-by-7-foot mats crocheted from plarn — plastic yarn made out of plastic grocery bags.

The mats keep a person from having to lie on cold or wet ground. If it is raining, a mat can become a cover for protection against the weather.

“It takes 700 bags to create one mat. Those are bags that are being reused and kept out of the landfill,” Olivia Corll, a senior at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, said.

Corll highlighted the Mats of Love project in her four-member team’s video in the Virtual Team Category of the Business Professional of America “We Create” competition last year.

Like others taking part in the project, Aidan Houy, a senior at Hubbard High School, said he believes he is doing the right thing in helping people.

Adult volunteer Jody Sterner of Hubbard said, “I think it is good to help out other people and those who find themselves in a homeless situation.”

Sandra Ladig of Campbell, also an adult volunteer, said the work is something she looks forward to doing each week.

HOW IT BEGAN

Zell said the project grew out of someone asking for help.

“A brave young woman stopped in at the library to ask where in our community could she shower for free,” Zell said. “I helped with resources I had available, but her ability to set aside any fear and make a request like that inspired me to see what we could do that actively assisted people experiencing homelessness within our library.

“Through Hubbard Rotary program, I was introduced to Youngstown Blue Coats and they spoke about Mats of Love. They were being made by Kim Pasco and her children, Mackenzie and Rick, at home,” she said.

The Pascos gave the mats to Youngstown Blue Coats to distribute.

Siblings Rick and Mackenzie Pasco of Hubbard share a life-threatening immune disorder. In 2008, when both were younger than 12, they were granted wishes through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A year later, they began their own work, Ricky Mack Giving Back, to raise money for Make-A-Wish for other children and to undertake other community service projects.

Among their honors over the years, they were 2012 recipients of Community Star awards, co-sponsored by was co-sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull 100.

“I reached out to Kim and she came to the library and showed a few of us how to create the mat,” Zell said.

MAKING MATS

It is a multi-step process to produce the Mats of Love.

“There is cutting, folding, looping and crocheting,” said Amber Benner, a recent graduate of Hubbard High School.

For about a year, Benner and Houy have been preparing the plarn so other volunteers can crochet it into the mats.

Adult volunteers such as Ann Jones, who is also involved with the Sit N’ Stitch group at the library, teach the crochet process to make the mats.

Zell pointed out that mixed in with the adults crocheting were a 10-year-old and a junior high student using the basic chain crochet stitch and a half double stitch to make the mats.

Though some volunteers have experience crocheting, it is not a requirement to help make the mats.

“I knew how to crochet and I had walked into the library for another reason and I saw information about the project and was interested in doing it,” said Patty Tate, an adult volunteer from Hubbard.

She tried making the mats at home with the instructions from the library website (www.beyond-books.org) but without much success.

“I came to a meeting and the ladies showed me how to do it. I have been coming ever since,” Tate said.

She has also got her husband involved. He cuts the bags for her at home, so she is ready to crochet when she gets to the meeting.

The group has made about 150 mats since it began in April 2018.

It typically it takes each volunteer two to three weeks to finish a mat. Jones said she had a very productive July Fourth holiday and completed two mats in one week.

“That won’t happen again,” she quipped.

MAKING FRIENDS

Making the Mats of Love is a social occasion for this intergenerational group.

“I believe you should create the opportunity to mix generations and help them all learn to work together and appreciate one another whenever they have the chance. I believe that our youth have a huge opportunity to learn from our older patrons and our older patrons have a lot to learn about our youth in the community,” Zell said.

Adult volunteer Debbie Maughan said the project keeps her busy since her husband passed away.

“I have learned to do stuff and I also have an opportunity to be around people, especially in the winter. It is a great way to spend my time and it gets me out of the house to come here and make mats,” she said.

To keep the Mats of Love creators motivated, Hubbard Library patron Vinny Bruner usually stops by to check on their progress and to encourage them to complete their projects with a smile and a joke.

Hubbard Public Library has found a community service project that provides help for people facing homelessness. In the process created an intergenerational group of volunteers who have become friends and feel a sense of satisfaction whenever they complete each mat because they know they are aiding others as well as the environment, Zell said.

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