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Local group making mats to help homeless and environment

An effort is underway in Lackawanna County to help the homeless and the environment, and volunteers are working hard to make it happen.

SCRANTON, Pa. — First, they collect plastic bags. Then, they use those bags to make plastic yarn called "plarn," and with that, they make the special mats to donate to the homeless through organizations like Keystone Mission in Scranton.

“I had the pleasure of dropping bags off at Keystone Rescue Mission, and a homeless gentleman was stopping there for services, and he saw me unloading the mats, and he saw me and said, ‘Are those for the mission?’ And I said ‘yes,’ and he said, ‘Can I have one, please? They are super.’ I could have cried," said Leah Ducato Rudolph of Abington Community Library's Caring Hands group.

The idea started at Taylor Community Library two years ago and then expanded to Abington Community Library, Covenant Presbyterian Church in Scranton, and more groups throughout Lackawanna County and beyond.

The volunteers say they enjoy helping the environment by recycling plastic and lending a hand to the homeless by giving them something dry to sit or lay on.

"I knew there were a lot of homeless veterans, and I’m retired military, so that’s originally who my mats were going to, and I think it’s just fantastic when it spreads, you know knowledge when it spreads," said Loretta Heffernan of Taylor Community Library.

Nationwide, officials say they are seeing spikes in homelessness from San Francisco to New York.

These volunteers say their work may be especially important now.

“It’s hard to even imagine carrying all your worldly possessions with you, but that’s what they do and to have something like this that’s lightweight but insulates them from the cold is a really great idea," said Marti Rotherforth of Clarks Summit.

If you have plastic bags and want to donate them to the cause, a number of places will collect them, including Covenant Presbyterian in Scranton or Jennings-Calvey Funeral Home in Clarks Summit, where in exchange for plastic bags, you get a reusable tote.

“In this kind of environment that we’re in, any sort of positive footprint that we can leave is a great thing," said Chris Calvey of Jennings Calvey Funeral and Cremation.

To learn more, check out the Mat Makers of NEPA group on Facebook.

And many of you are finding creative ways as well to recycle or even upcycle during the pandemic.

In the video below, Newswatch 16’s Ryan Leckey also showed us how many of our viewers are finding creative ways to recycle or even upcycle during the pandemic.