Men weave plastic milk bags into sleeping mats

June 30, 2021 | News | Volume 25 Issue 14D
Janet Bauman | Eastern Canada Correspondent
Stanley Cook set up a frame on the dining room table in his condo so he could keep weaving mats out of plastic bags when pandemic restrictions limited access to the weaving room at Wilmot Mennonite Church in New Hamburg, Ont. (Photo by Verda Cook)

It takes 250 plastic milk bags to make a one-metre-x-two-metre washable, waterproof sleeping mat. And it takes hours of volunteer work to flatten, cut, loop and weave strips of the bags together.

A group of men from Wilmot Mennonite Church has been doing this work for years, sending the finished mats to Christian Aid Ministries in Moorefield, Ont., to be distributed mostly overseas.

The mats are used in medical centres and refugee camps for people who would otherwise be sleeping without a mattress, or even on the ground.

The men who weave the mats depend on donations of the four-litre milk bags from individuals, churches and nursing homes. They have a room in the church basement dedicated to this project. Before the pandemic, two people could work together on one frame to weave the bags into a mat.

With pandemic restrictions they were not able to use this space since last summer but hope to get back to it in the fall. Meanwhile, they continue cutting bags into strips at home. Stanley Cook even took a frame home and set it up on the dining room table in the Kitchener, Ont., condo he shares with his wife Verda, to continue the weaving.

Recently, they were able to deliver 19 finished mats to Christian Aid Ministries, and Stanley has another thousand bags to cut into strips, which he does on a cutting board with a rolling cutter.

“It connects me with the community,” he says. “It is my way of contributing to our brothers and sisters worldwide who have a need.” He intends to keep doing this work as long as he can.

Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in Eastern Canada? Send it to Janet Bauman at ec@canadianmennonite.org.

Stanley Cook set up a frame on the dining room table in his condo so he could keep weaving mats out of plastic bags when pandemic restrictions limited access to the weaving room at Wilmot Mennonite Church in New Hamburg, Ont. (Photo by Verda Cook)

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