Volunteers use plastic bags to bring comfort to those in need

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By: Majorie Pierre | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 6, 2018

LIVE OAK, Fla. (WCTV) -- Nearly everyone uses plastic grocery bags, and some seem to have them spilling out of every kitchen cabinet. The bags can be stored for months, or even years, without any use.

A local woman has found a way to put them to good use after a Facebook post inspired her to spark change in the community.

"I was scrolling through Facebook and someone had made some of these bags, so I got interested," Kathleen Townsend explains.

Kathleen says it was a message from God to use plastic grocery bags to make sleeping mats for those in need.

Kathleen knew she couldn't do it alone, so she called the one person she knew could help, Live Oak Police Chief Buddy Williams.

Chief Williams says, "I know her personally and I know she's got a giver's heart... It was about mid-December when Mrs. Kathleen texted me and she said, 'well it takes 750 bags to make one mat' and I said, 'no problem. We'll put it on Facebook and see what happens.'"

Just like that, the idea that Kathleen now calls her 'task from God,' is becoming a reality.

"The community really came together... We got thousands of bags," Chief Williams says.

Bags not just from neighbors, but also from big time retailers like Walmart and Winn-Dixie.

"There’s probably not words in my heart to express the overwhelming generosity to this community," Kathleen says.

The community support is no surprise to Chief Williams.

"Live Oak Police Department, we're very active in the community. So I knew that we would get the support, and the support came, and it's still coming," Williams says.

But for Kathleen and Buddy, the work is only beginning.

"My first mat was about 18 hours," Williams says.

Making a mat is no easy task. WCTV visited with Kathleen as she taught others how to create the mats during a class at the Live Oak Police Department.

Kathleen is continuing to teach community members who are looking to help. Hook by hook, Live Oak community members gather to learn how to crochet.

"I think everyone needs a safe place to stay and this is going to help them keep from being cold on the ground," says volunteer Karol Scott.

Scott is one of more than a dozen volunteers helping fulfill Kathleen’s vision.

Chief Williams says, "We're going to have some of those mats here at the police department and we're going to make sure the sheriff's office [has them]."

"We have so many wonderful people to help share this... That I am overwhelmed with thankfulness," Kathleen says.

The community is truly turning trash into treasure.

The next crochet class will be held at the Live Oak Library on Wednesday, February 21 at 10 a.m.

The mats are free to those in need. If you would like to donate bags, or know someone in need of a mat, contact the Live Oak Police Department at (386) 362-7463.

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