Homemade with Heart
Anthem residents “plarn” mats for homeless veterans
By Eric Newman
A group of residents at The Enclave at Anthem senior living community has made it a mission to support homeless veterans.
The Arizona Department of Economic Security’s 2017 “Homelessness in Arizona Annual Report” identified 204 veterans as “unsheltered.” To help mitigate the problem, a group of residents meets weekly to make homemade mats in red, white and blue to give to veterans in need.
Their process is called “plarning.” Crafters use cut-up plastic grocery bags as yarn and sew the strands into sturdy, 3-by-6-foot mats that veterans can sleep and shower on. The plastic cleans and dries easily for storage and long-term use.
“A lot of us like knitting and crocheting anyway, so this was a nice way we could help out,” Enclave resident Anne Rand says.
Resident Marthi Hugli adds, “It’s something that you can do while you’re sitting at home watching TV.”
When Enclave’s outreach coordinator, Monica Netzel, came forward with the idea, only she and a couple residents came consistently to the weekly mat-making meetings. Now, in a social room at the facility, around ten people regularly come to either cut bags for yarn or take part in the process of constructing them.
“My husband served, and I think it’s really important to give back to veterans. They gave a lot to us,” says resident Ruth Black, who has already completed two full mats and was in the process of finishing her third.
Netzel says that many of those who work on the project have spouses, either living or dead, that served in the military. The community has 39 veteran residents, and many of the wives come out to swap stories about their similar lives while they work on their crafts.
“They can all come out and talk to each other,” Netzel says. “It’s kind of a social thing where they can make something important too. Now, we get new people almost every week.”
The Enclave held a ceremony on Tuesday, November 20 at 3 p.m. at the facility. Veteran residents paraded around the Enclave and the community’s Hero’s Wall. They then presented the completed projects to Joan Sisco of Veterans First LTD on behalf of homeless veterans. Quilts of Valor also presented three homemade quilts to the community’s longest-serving veterans.
Each mat takes roughly 60 hours of labor to construct, and the residents had an estimated 15 completed for the event. Though Netzel says the community wanted even more, 15 is still a large accomplishment for the residents, who volunteered so much time for a good cause.
“It’s really not about the number,” she says. “I think it’s about these people all having something fun to do together that really helps people out. Even after this, I think we’ll still have people who want to keep making the mats.”
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