Mission of the Month: Wil-Mats

Mission of the Month: Wil-Mats

By: Susan Naslund

The Wil-Mat Project: Helping the homeless and the planet one plastic bag at a time!

On Tuesday afternoons at Cali Comfort Restaurant in Spring Valley, a large mound of plastic grocery bags is a common sight. Some regular customers just drop off the bags while others flatten, fold and cut those sacks into strips that will eventually be woven into sleeping mats.

A simple sign which read, "Weaving plastic bags into mats for the homeless" is what first drew Jennifer Smith into the project at the eatery. Jennifer, Jeremy Nikodym and a handful of others set aside time each week to work on the Wil-Mat Project. "This is about being a human being and helping other human beings," Jennifer said about the multi-denominational ministry. "Doing this work is what Christ is like today," added Jeremy.

Started by Wilma Groh in 2010, the ministry has created and distributed more than 500 mats to people sleeping on the streets of downtown San Diego. Jennifer and Jeremy have faithfully continued the project following Wilma's death in 2012. "People are flabbergasted when they find out that we are making these mats from plastic bags," said Jeremy, a former electrician and current vacuum repairman. He loves helping people and "needs to be needed." Since becoming involved, Jeremy has used his creative mind to make the process accessible to everyone from children to seniors. He makes jigs and looms, and has even converted an old sewing machine into a device that winds the plastic strips into handy balls of "plarn."

Lots of hands are needed in the multi-step process that changes grocery bags into comfy mats. Jeremy is happy to teach anyone how to do each of the steps. This warm and inviting group meets at the locations and at the times listed below. Once instruction is received, people can also choose to work independently on any of the aspects of the mats. Finally, all are invited to help give out the completed mats to those in need.

ONE HOUR OPPORTUNITY: Tie plastic strips to make "plarn." It is easy to learn and anyone can do it any time and anywhere. The Wil-Mat Project welcomes you!

Tuesdays, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Cali Comfort Restaurant & Sports Bar
8910 Troy Street, Spring Valley, CA 91977

Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Foothills United Methodist Church, Youth Center

2nd Saturday of the month, 10:00 a.m. - noon Foothills United Methodist Church, Disciple Room

Follow them on Facebook 
Watch the program featured on KPBS 
For more information, contact: Jeremy Nikodym (619) 985-9570

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