Positively Buffalo: Mats for a Mission

(WIVB) — There are many wonderful organizations in Western New York that help the homeless.

And there’s one group that spends hundreds of hours a week, tediously knitting.

They call themselves “Mats for a Mission”.

And their mission has had a bigger impact than they ever expected.

Step into a meeting and look around… sorting, cutting, rolling and knitting.

“It’s just amazing what you can make with plastic bags… oh my gosh!” said member, Judy Tolsma.

It takes a long time.

“The beginning steps would be a 20 hour process. If you were to do it all yourself it would take you 20 hours to start the process like that and 50 hours to crochet it.” said Gail Potter, the founder of the group.

It’s incredible to think it takes about a thousand plastic bags to make one mat for the homeless.

“They’re like that’s plastic? Especially like the brown ones because from a distance it doesn’t look like a plastic bag. And I’ll take it to the doctors and people will stare at you and be like “are those the plastic bags?!” said Potter.

Gail Potter started the group from inspiration on the internet.

They were 8 members in 2016.

2 years and hundreds of Facebook followers later, the weekly meetings are packed.

“I can’t believe it. I am still in shock. I never expected it to grow like this. Never in my wildest dreams,” said Potter.

Donna Fanti was introduced to the group when she lost her husband.

“So I’ve got a couple feet to go lengthwise… 3 feet wide, it’s gotta be 6 feet long…,” said Fanti.

One stitch at a time, it gave her a positive way to spend her days.

“I never ever was involved in anything like this and there’s a reason for it. I’m telling you it’s the best ever,” said Fanti.

We asked if it’s changed her life.

“Completely, completely,” said Fanti.

This is Donna’s 17th mat.

“Every stitch is made with love… My heart my soul, my love. Look at what the reward is in the end,” said Fanti.

Others were brought to tears when we asked what knitting mats for the homeless means to them.

“I get peace. I do. It makes me feel peaceful,” said Marilyn Geber.

The peace extends beyond those who knit and reaches those in need.

“They know it’s not luxury, it’s not… but anything we do for them, they are so happy. They feel they are so blessed to just receive a mat made out of plastic grocery bags,” said Potter.

Mats for a Mission is looking for a permanent spot to hold meetings and store supplies.

If you know of a place that’s willing to donate space, contact them at the Mats for a Mission Facebook page.

If you have a story about people doing good in your community, let us know.

Email positivelybuffalo@wivb.com or melanie.orlins@wivb.com

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