SNOHOMISH, Wash. -- Thursday was the weekly gathering among the ladies at Hope Foursquare Church in Snohomish, but this is no knitting circle.
"Nope. This is a crocheting circle," said Sondra Hirsch.
And you won't find anyone making tea cozies or pot holders. Nor will you find anyone spinning yarns.
They spin something else.
"It's plarn," said Hirsch, with a warm smile.
Plarn is short for "plastic yarn" made out of old grocery bags.
In assembly line fashion, the women cut up the bags and crochet the plarn into soft, waterproof plastic mats for the homeless to sleep on.
"It is a labor of love," said Marcia LaBossiere.
A labor that lasts two days.
It takes about 50 hours and 600 bags to make one 3 x 6 foot mat, but the ladies are happy to do it.
"Anything that can help make them more comfortable is a blessing to me, and I know it is to them," said volunteer Ann Heggem.
The "bag ladies" braid the bags they can't use for mats into jump ropes that are sent to children in Mexico.
"They extremely durable," said LaBossiere, who goes door to door in her neighborhood collecting plastic bags. "Most of these would just end up in the landfill."
The inspiration for the project, called "Bags of Blessings," came from a chance encounter by one of the ladies with a man panhandling for money to do his laundry. Impressed by the gratitude he showed for a single dollar, she couldn't help but think of her own family member who died alone on the streets last year while battling schizophrenia.
It took two weeks for authorities to track down the next of kin and notify Marcia LaBossiere's family that her cousin was dead.
"It just made me think that everybody out there is somebody's child," she said.
The group has already delivered a dozen mats to an Everett homeless shelter, and they want to make many more.
"We have plenty of bags," said LaBossiere. "We just need more hands."
If you'd like to get involved, contact the church at 425-397-6465.
Said LaBossiere, "There are a lot of people on the street with mental illness. There are a lot of people who just don't know what to do. It's our job to help them,"