Retired sisters stitch sleeping mats for the homeless

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
St. Joseph of Peace Sister Ede Reif crochets strips of plastic grocery bags into a sleeping mat for the homeless. Photo: Nathan Whalen St. Joseph of Peace Sister Ede Reif crochets strips of plastic grocery bags into a sleeping mat for the homeless. Photo: Nathan Whalen

BELLEVUE – A group of retired sisters are helping the homeless have a better place to sleep.

At St. Mary-on-the-Lake in Bellevue, some members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace are transforming plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats that will be given to homeless people.

Img5St. Joseph of Peace Sisters Camillus Elliot and Amalia Camacho display a strip of plastic grocery bag that will be transformed into “yarn” for a crocheted sleeping mat liked the one pictured. Standing at back are St. Joseph of Peace Sisters Grace DiDomencantonio, left, Kieran Kennedy, Huong Nguyen, Ede Reif and Lien Chu. Photo: Nathan Whalen

Some of the sisters cut the bags into strips and tie them into “yarn,” while others crochet the plastic yarn into mats. The sisters usually stitch a few rows on a mat during their free time.

“It’s hard work,” said Sister Kieren Kennedy, who has been a sister for 70 years and spent most of that time teaching. “I do it when I watch travel on TV.”

“I’m a little slow,” said Sister Ede Reif, who has been in religious life since 1951. “I have to stop when I get a cramp.”

Joining the retired sisters in making mats are St. Joseph of Peace Sisters Huong Nguyen and Lien Chu, who are visiting from Vietnam to take classes in the Puget Sound area.

So far, the sisters have completed one mat and are working on several others. One of the sisters working on the mats can only use one hand because of a recent stroke.

Sue Nies, co-director for the religious congregation’s associate members, said QFC donated 1,000 bags for the sisters’ efforts. The completed mats will help folks who don’t have a clean place to sleep. Because they’re made from plastic, homeless people can keep dry when they’re sleeping outside. The lightweight mats offer some insulation, are bug-proof and are easy to wash off, Nies explained.

The work of making the mats is slow, but it’s a way for these sisters to continue helping others.

“I think God always sends you something to do no matter what,” Sister Ede said.