More bags turning into mats for Operation Green Team homeless efforts

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Thousands of shopping bags fill a closet in city hall -- especially now that Calhoun Community College added to the collection in the Operation Green Team office.

"They have not only brought bags so that other people can do it, they have also produced mats for the homeless," said Joy McKee, executive director of Operation Green Team.

At least 700 bags are needed to repurpose every mat. Once the newly donated bags were stored, the team took the completed mats somewhere they could be of better use: the First Stop homeless advocacy center.

"These mats mean the world to the people who need them," said First Stop director Clete Wetli. "First of all, they're a moisture barrier, they're soft."

"The homeless are actually able to have a barrier between them and the ground," said McKee.

Operation Green Team delivered more than two dozen mats to First Stop, where they were quickly claimed. Now, the advocacy group has plans to bring the mat crocheting into their own facility.

"Hopefully, some of the homeless themselves can start producing these mats," said Wetli. First Stop has a mobile classroom where he hopes to start holding classes for people to learn the skill, including some of the homeless Huntsvillians who can help create some for themselves and for others.

In the meantime, Operation Green Team needs more hands to teach, learn, and help crocheting the shopping bags into mats.

Their office in City Hall is taking bag donations, as well as handing them out to anyone willing to make a mat. McKee is hoping to get 500 made as soon as possible to distribute them, especially during the winter months.

Wetli agrees that it will empower people to get involved, while going along with the city's mantra of repurposing and recycling by creating a functional and philanthropic use for old bags.

"So what do we do with them? Throw them out? Nope, not in Huntsville, we're reusing them for our homeless," said McKee.