BIG LAKE, Minn. - Where do you begin if you want to change the world? In Big Lake, it starts small, with a stitch.
That’s how Liz Houck Kampa and Jenna Slama slowly tackle two pervasive problems in Minnesota and across the planet: harmful plastic bags and people experiencing homelessness, by crocheting plastic bags into sleeping mats.
The idea came to Kampa in a college class, when a required research paper changed the course of her life.
“The example paper was about plastic bags and how damaging they are for the environment, and I was upset by it but I didn’t know what I could possibly do, then I saw a video on Facebook of some women in Tennessee that were making these mats out of plastic bags and when I saw that it clicked, that’s what I can do,” said Kampa.
She put out an inquiry on Facebook and within a day, around 70 people volunteered to help. Kampa called her movement Weaving Love MN.
The group started in December and already, they've hand delivered around a dozen mats to a St. Paul homeless camp, with a dozen more in the works.
“It brought tears to everyone’s eyes, I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s fulfilling, it’s become a passion I don’t want to be doing anything else. This whole thing has changed the way I think, how I spend my money,” she said.
Each mat is labor intensive, taking 20 to 30 hours to create and is made from 500 to 800 plastic bags, all woven into a 3 feet wide by 6 feet long sleeping mat with handles to help carry it for people in transient situations.
“They aren't going to biodegrade, they are going to be here forever, so it's the one case where you are happy about that,” said Slama, of Rice, Minnesota.
Now neighbors in need are indeed changed by something else everlasting.
“They can tell it’s made with love, you seem to be able to feel it in the mats,” said Kampa and Slama.
Weaving Love MN has plenty of plastic bags but is in need of more volunteers and helping hands to make plarn, crochet mats and distribute mats.
The group is holding a session on how to learn and help on Saturday, July 8 at the Maple Grove Library, at 11 a.m. in the Main Street Meeting Room near the Children’s area. More sessions are planned for this summer.