GLENWOOD, Iowa — Walk inside Trinity Lutheran Church some Wednesday morning and feel your mood lift.
As you make your way for the church basement, you'll pass a table with donated boxes of Cheerios and other staples for the hungry; a Christmas tree with requests for gloves and mittens for those without; and a basket for recyclables.
These simple gestures make the world seems brighter. But there's more.
Walk past the bulletin board showing pictures and stories of armed services members needing prayer: Mason in the Coast Guard; Melissa in the Navy; Terry in the Air Force.
Head downstairs where the coffee urn is on and busy hands are fast at work.
At one end of the room, a group of women is sewing colorful squares for homemade quilts that will be shipped to the needy overseas. The quilts are unique and sweet, and the seamstresses are careful to avoid putting anything religious into them because not all who shiver are Christian, of course, and the
Christian thing to do is to be mindful of that.
Walk to the back of this church basement, where another group of women is working the biggest crochet needles you've ever seen.
Stop. Grab a folding chair and watch as the women's thick needles hook and loop, pull through and hook and loop again in row after row of thick, colorful ... plastic.
This isn't yarn. These women are crocheting strips of tied-together old plastic bags. Brown Baker's bags and white Target ones and yellow Dollar General bags and orange World-Herald sleeves. These crocheted plastic bags will become sleeping mats for some of Iowa's homeless.
The process is long and involved. The result is soft and surprisingly pretty. Those old, ugly plastic bags that can wind up flapping from a too-high tree branch or nestled against a fence are, in this particular project, a thing of beauty.
The crocheters take pride in the outcome, which can be boiled down to Janice Kruse's description: "We turn trash into good stuff."
This evolution of bag to blanket starts in a church storage room where a mountain of plastic bags waits.
Volunteers take the bags, clean them and then cut off the handles and bottoms. Then the bag is cut into 2-inch-wide strips.
The strips are tied together, and volunteers are mindful of color and pattern. Green-white-green white. Or all brown. Or five oranges to five browns. The strips are then rolled into giant plastic "yarn" balls.
Each 4½-foot-by-7-foot plastic mat takes some 1,500 bags.
"You can lay on them," Kruse says. "You can cover up with them.