Making a difference one bag at a time

Grace with the loom and plenty of weaving to do.
By on January 1, 2023

“So this is what is going on at the church in Greely on Tuesday nights,” was one of many comments heard at All Saints Greely’s information booth at the Metcalfe Fair this fall.

It began as a simple question in the spring of 2022. Did I know anyone who made milk bag mats? It has evolved into a multifaceted outreach initiative with three arms of goodness: providing sleeping mats and sit-upons for the homeless and less fortunate, keeping milk bags out of the landfill, and receiving offers of help and wonderful community support from so many people, of all ages, who want to help make a difference.

The situation that was brought to our attention was that Earthub, an organization whose mission is to keep certain items out of the landfill, had stopped collecting milk bags as they did not have an end user to pass them on to.  After just a little research and the building of a large loom, one sleeping mat was woven on a kitchen table and it was a go.  But, this then raised more questions.  Wanting them to stay local, what would we do with them?  Where would they go?  Was there a need?   Connecting with Kim of our diocesan Community Ministries Day Programs, we were quickly introduced to Shawna Thibodeau of Shawna’s Outreach, and soon after connected  with JFS Streetsmarts, Inner City Ministries, Ability First Ottawa, and House of Lazarus.  They quickly confirmed that the need for these mats was very real, great, and unfortunately growing all the time.  All Saints Greely now had another outreach ministry which very soon became a weekly Tuesday evening event.

The mats provide a waterproof spot to sit or sleep on. They add a little bit of cushioning and do not require cleaning or drying like regular beds, sleeping bags and blankets, so they can be used more than once.  They are even used as pillows or canopies from rain and sun.  One has also been taken to replace someone’s bed as it provides protection from bedbugs. We have begun to include handles on them making them easier to carry when they are rolled up.

To date 47 large sleeping mats and 57 sit-upons have been distributed to those in need. About 30 people have been involved in the weaving and preparation of the bags.  We continue to receive many milk bags from the community and Earthub with approximately 23,250 milk bags used so far and kept out of the landfill. Add to that the many words of encouragement and thanks for what we are doing, and there is no question that we belong to a caring and loving community of people who understand and are acting to make a difference for people in need.

Everyone is welcome to help. Together we are sharing our time and talents, (not that it requires much talent), and putting our love for our less fortunate and struggling fellow brothers and sisters into action.  The stories I have heard, and all I have learned about life on the streets, is overwhelming at times.  And at the same time the amazing community we live in, so many people who have supported and assisted in so many ways by donating milk bags, their time cutting, looping, and weaving, has also been overwhelming in its own way.

We hope that someday there won’t be a need, or as much need, but in the meantime, we have heard the call to make a difference and will do what we can, weaving one bag at a time.  

Grace Jones is PeoplesWarden at All Saints Greely.


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