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Loyalsock Township woman crochets mats for homeless people

A common item used by most consumers — plastic grocery bags — are being transformed into waterproof mats for the homeless by the talented Dorothy Warner, of Loyalsock Township.

At first that may not seem a remarkable feat, but Warner will be 95 years old in August.

She said she taught herself to crochet in the 1980’s by getting a book on the subject.

“I got a book on how to crochet and I studied that and I just did it. Now I can do almost anything,” she said.

At first she tried her new found skill out by making doilies for family members.

“I made a doily for every one of my nephews and nieces. They each had one from me,” she shared.

The transition from making doilies to crafting mats for the homeless came over two years ago when she saw something about the mats on Facebook.

“I saw it on Facebook so then I went even farther and I got all the directions off, then I followed those directions and that’s how I came to do it,” Warner stated.

She was able to share this knowledge with fellow campers when she was at a campground run by her church two years ago.

“I started by introducing it there in the campground. Every day for a week we got together and we had about eight or ten people. That’s over now and I’m doing it by myself,” she said.

Last winter she made four mats and gave them to a local church which had opened its doors to the homeless during the cold nights. She has four ready to go this year, but is not sure where to send them.

When asked how long it took to make a mat, Warner quickly replied, “A long time.”

Warner, who shared that she works on the mats whenever she sits down in her living room, explained what is involved in making one.

Because they are made from plastic grocery bags, there is a certain amount of preparation that needs to be done before she can start crocheting the mats, which are about 36 inches wide and 60 inches long.

The bags are cut into strips and then the strips are tied together to be crocheted. Some people form the strips into a ball, but Warner said that she didn’t like to do it that way.

“I don’t like them in a ball. They twist up too much. I just tie two together and then as I use them, I just take them from there,” she said.

Warner also enjoys making the mats attractive as well as functional.

“I still have a lot of gray bags and a lot of yellow bags, but I’m going to have to ask some of friends to save me some other bags,” she said.

“The Target bags are good because they have red on them and it shows up. And I like the ones that have green and red and blue in them. I like those kinds of bags, but they’re hard to find,” she added.

Creating the mats isn’t the first time that Warner had been involved in ministering to others.

In the 1990’s Warner was part of a team that went to the Dominican Republic to build a church. She has also taught Sunday School for what she said, “seems like forever.”

When she was in college she was part of a singing group that sang at different churches and then years later she and her husband had a ministry with students attending Penn State in State College.

“It makes me gasp to think of all that I did and wonder how I did it all,” she added.

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