Seniors Give New Life to Old Bags


 By Jasmine Haynes, Web and Social Media Specialist

Roberta Pennington
Roberta Pennington, member of Middlebrook UMC, knitting mats 
for the homeless.

Youth and young adults are not the only people who can have a huge impact serving in mission work.  Older adults play a unique, yet substantial role in the life of a church's outreach goals and initiatives.  As an active participant in the senior adult ministry and several other vital functions at Middlebrook United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, Roberta Pennington, is leading the inexpensive and senior-friendly project of making sleeping mats for the homeless.

Pennington heard that her friend Audrey Methvin of Alta Woods Baptist Church was creating mats with other seniors, a project that is keeping Methvin enthused about helping the homeless. "We thought it was a wonderful idea because it would be useful to people in the community," said Methvin.  "There are plenty of people even older than I am that do remarkable things, so age is just a state of mind."

After talking with Methvin, Pennington searched the internet for instructions and began her first mat.  Pennington explained that she gravitated towards this project because she already possessed the necessary skill set of knitting and the materials would cost next to nothing.  Unlike conventional yarn, the 80-year-old uses strips of plastic grocery store bags as knitting yarn for the mats.  All she has to do is ask friends, church members, relatives and neighbors for plastic bags.  In addition, she uses a large knitting needle so the limitations of her aging eyesight do not prevent her from assisting in mission work.

"When I retired, I received this book about prayers for elderly folks and the very first thing that I read was about all the people in the Bible who were 80 and older like Moses and Joshua who did all these great things," said Pennington.  "Here I am thinking that I can just sit down and knit, but God called them in their old age so I'm just glad that I'm able to help."

The mats are durable and light enough to carry if one's primary transportation is walking.  A former GED teacher, Pennington recalled an eye-opening experience where one of her homeless students gave her a whole new perspective on valuing and keeping up with personal belongings when a person has no place to call his or her own.  According to Pennington, the homeless student was learning how to read and in the back of the adult beginner reading book there was a certificate of accomplishment.  "The student invited me to an open house at the shelter he stayed in and by golly, on the shelter's bulletin board was the little certificate we had given him for completing book one," said Pennington.

Pennington is reaching out to everyone including her fellow line-dancing ladies at the Clinton YMCA to help with knitting and gathering plastic grocery bags.  Pennington hopes to have completed at least six mats by Christmas as her contribution to Middlebrook UMC's homeless ministry. 

Those participating in the homeless ministry will decide where to distribute the mats later in the year. 

For more information on making the mats click here. To donate mats or plastic grocery bags contact Middlebrook UMC at 601-373-0342.