One woman is partially blind. Another is 97 years old. They gather with five other women in their 80s and 90s to make plastic mats for those experiencing homelessness served by Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net (OSN).
“They’re old,” Diane Knopp, an associate in the Dynamic Living Program at Country Meadows of South Hills in Bridgeville, says as she describes the faithful volunteers. “They’re in pain.”
But age and physical ailments don’t make a difference when the women gather for the Helping Hands Service Project, where they work as a team to make plastic mats that individuals living on the street can place under their sleeping bags. The mats provide a barrier between the sleeping bag and the ground, something that helps keep the bags dry.
The volunteers have been donating mats to OSN for several years. They connected with OSN through Father Hal Baily, who provides spiritual support for colleagues and persons served by Pittsburgh Mercy.
After they cut off the tops and bottoms of plastic shopping bags, the women fold and loop the bags together to make a ball of “yarn,” which volunteer Karen Fortney then crochets into the mats, Diane says.
Because the shopping bags come in many colors, each mat is unique. One Pittsburgh-style mat, made in honor of a volunteer who had passed away, used only black and gold bags, Diane says.
Edith Moore, one of the Helping Hands volunteers who had made blankets for children in need through Project Linus for years, also makes and donates hats and scarves to OSN.