By Chris Fish
BREVARD - Local sculpture artist Suzanne Frank is putting her clay away for a while to focus on creating mats, made entirely out of plastic bags, for homeless veterans.
"If we can't help them after they have helped us so much, then what is it all about?" Mrs. Frank said. "If (helping them) means just saving plastic bags, then it is the least we can do."
It takes Mrs. Frank, who started making the bags two weeks ago, nearly 25 hours to crochet 500 bags into one mat, so homeless veterans can use it under their sleeping bags to keep dry.
Crochet is the process of creating fabric using yarn, thread or other materials, as well as a crochet hook, which is a needle with a hook at one end used to draw thread through knotted loops. The plastic bags are used to make what is known as "plarn," after the handles are removed on each bag and cut into strips.
Mrs. Frank said she hopes to spread awareness of what she is doing to get more people involved in the mat-making process.
"If we could just get churches involved, that would help," she said. "Everybody can help out."
Mrs. Frank said she began to make these mats for homeless veterans after an encounter with Tim Brown at a nearby store.
"This man opened the door for me, and he started to talk to the manager about these mats, and I overheard him," she said. "I asked him about it, and he told me. I had women come over to my house, and Tim and his wife came over to show us how to make the mats."
Mr. Brown, a Melbourne resident and veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard for 20 years, said he and his wife Corazon first started making the mats in the spring, and they are currently on their seventh.
"We are just trying to make (homeless veterans') lives a little easier," Mr. Brown said. "It recycles the plastic bags, too, but that is a minor thing for me. The bags are easy to clean. All you have to do is put it in a stream for a bit, and hang them up to dry."
Mr. Brown said when he first learned how to create the mats online, the size it called for was 3-feet by 5-feet, but he said this size proposed a problem for him.
"But, I found that, when I lay my sleeping bag over the mat, it (wasn't big enough). We make ours 4-feet by 6-feet instead."
Stand Down, a nonprofit organization that provides help for homeless veterans, is scheduled to have an event this October, where the mats will be distributed.
For more information about creating mats for homeless veterans in Brevard County, contact Tim Brown at (321) 259-7382.