Certain Conway groups have begun taking part in an effort to ease the discomfort of Little Rock’s homeless population.

Through the meticulous construction of sleeping mats, New Life Church volunteer Dawn Warmbold hopes to help those in need while also recycling.

“I love to help people who are less fortunate, and I love to recycle,” Warmbold said. “With this I can do the two things at once. Besides, any one of us is 30, 60 or 90 days away from becoming homeless ourselves if something catastrophic happens.”

Each mat uses 500 to 700 plastic shopping bags. The recycled bags are cut into strips and crocheted to make a 2 1/2 feet-wide, 6 feet-long mat.

Warmbold and her network of volunteers divide the process of breaking down bags, creating “plarn” balls, looping and weaving. Each mat takes about six hours to assemble, according to Warmbold.

Eighty volunteers from New Life Church are members of the growing network of “Sleeping Mat-ters.”

The mats are in high demand, Warmbold said.

“They give them a barrier between themselves and the ground,” Warmbold said. “Bugs don’t like it, and if it gets wet, they only have to shake it. If it gets dirty they hose it off and hang it up to dry and get going again.”

Drew Davis, director of NLC’s Dream Center, said when he delivers the mats to the homeless in downtown Little Rock, they are taken fast.
“They love the mats. We could hand out way more than we can produce,” Davis said. “But a lot of organizations have expressed interest. We take something typically thrown away and make a difference for someone else.” 

The group’s goal, Davis said, is not to hand out food or cover the areas already handled by church groups, but to “fill in the holes.”
“We want to go into the community, find the needs and come up with unique ways to deal with those needs,” Davis said.

Davis said it is rumored that there are about 3,000 homeless people in the Little Rock area.

Warmbold has personally created 40 mats and instructed several church groups and organizations on how to create the mats.
“The word is spreading like wildfire,” Warmbold said. “The homeless have asked us not to stop making them. There are more homeless than mats to hand out. That’s how much in demand they are.”

Warmbold, also called “the bag lady” has been teaching others how to carry the torch and encouraging them to create circles of their own to produce mats.
She created an instructional Youtube video, which has received more than 2,500 views.

The video can be viewed by going to Warmbold’s channel at www.youtube.com/user/dawnw4848.

For more information about the Sleeping Mat-ters group, e-mail Dawn Warmbold at dawn4848@hotmail.com.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)