SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Twin City Pharmacy employees Linda Chui and Evi Patsourakis have put their creativity, talent, and desire to help those less fortunate into creating plarn – plastic yarn – sleep mats out of plastic bags.
Plarn is made by cutting plastic grocery-store type bags into strips that are then strung together into a single long strand and used to loom, knit, or crochet items such as tote bags, doormats, sleep mats and more. Since the mats are made of recycled plastic, they bug-resistant and easy to clean as well as water-resistant, providing warmth and a buffer from the wet ground. The plan is to donate the mats to local agencies for distribution to the homeless.
“I really wanted to do community outreach and was trying to figure out ways I could give back without a committed time frame,” said Chui, a pharmacist at Twin City. “It makes me feel good that I can give back this way.”
Patsourakis, a clerk at the Park Avenue pharmacy, added, “I work a lot so I don’t have time to volunteer and this is a behind the scenes way of giving back. My goal was just to do something good for somebody else.”
An avid couponer, Chui first stumbled upon an article about plarn mats last spring when conducting an online search for a place to donate toiletries she purchased for the needy. Wanting to learn more, she watched YouTube videos on how to plarn and started collecting plastic bags.
“I would go to Shop Rite and ask them for all the bags people had dropped off into the recycling bin,” said Chui, adding, “My husband calls me the crazy bag lady.”
Patsourakis, a clerk at Twin City, first got involved with the project in an effort to help Chui. She would cut and string the bags and roll them into balls of plarn to be loomed. Most recently, however, Patsourakis put her crocheting skills to work, using her 'J' needle to help make the mats.
“It doesn't affect my time in a negative way; I do it when I am watching TV. If I am not crocheting, I am cutting bags or making the balls of plarn,” said Patsourakis. “It’s therapeutic but also rewarding."
Each plarn mat takes a little over a week to make; a mat made on the large loom Chui’s father-in-law made requires about 80 bags while those crocheted or made using the small loom fellow Twin City pharmacist Joe Savoly built require around 150 to 160 bags. According to the plarners, all types of plastic bags can be used with supermarket, pharmacy, and liquor store bags among the easiest to work.
Currently, the plan is to donate the mats to the South Plainfield Department of Social Services and the homeless ministry at the Christian Life Church in Middlesex, where Patsourakis is a parishioner.
“I’m so proud of our staff here at Twin City. They help keep the words ‘community spirit’ in our small town pharmacy,” said Sandy Cassio who, along with her cousin Tom Cassio and brother-in-law Bill Ashault, owns the family-run and operated pharmacy. “Thank you for sharing their efforts and thank you to all our customers who drop off plastic bags to support their project.”
Residents looking to support Chui’s and Patsourakis’ efforts can drop off unwanted plastic bags to Twin City Pharmacy, located at 1708 Park Avenue, during regular business hours which are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call Twin City at (908) 755-7696.
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