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One stitch at a time: Group makes mats for homeless veterans

News-Sun - 12/18/2017

SEBRING — When Denise Stegall saw a woman picking up a lot of blankets at St. John United Methodist Church, she became curious.

She asked her about that and was told the blankets would benefit homeless veterans, and that the veterans needed mats so they did not have to sleep on the ground.

Stegall said that inspired her to start a program at Sun ‘n Lake, where she lives, to create mats for the homeless veterans.

Stegall found out that about 600 bags are used to create each mat. The bags are used in knitting and crocheting the mats.

So she began collecting bags.

“I had a room full of plastic bags,” she said.

Then she had to find people who would assist in using those bags to make the mats.

When Stegall broached the idea at a Sun ‘n Lake meeting of a group of women who knit and crochet regularly, she said, she was amazed at the response.

They were eager to help, she said. While some cannot knit or crochet, they do whatever they can, including cutting and folding bags.

Others donated materials. An employee of Walmart gave them bags when they learned about the project.

“What is overwhelming about this is that so many people want to help,” she said.

Marilyn Beebe, a Sun ‘n Lake resident who has been cutting the plastic bags for the project, said that whenever someone needs help, the group is quick to assist.

The need in this case resonates with many of the women, Beverly Phillips said. “A lot of us are married to vets.”

Some of their husbands may have faced challenges transitioning from military to civilian life, she said.

Becky Butler, another resident from the Nip and Knitters group, has helped people in need over the years.

Once the mats are completed, the Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans First will deliver the mats to the homeless veterans.

Stegall said members of those organizations know where the homeless veterans’ camps are and have worked with those who live there.


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