By Rodger Mullen
The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Anne Evanco, an assistant programs supervisor at the Hope Mills Senior Center has spearheaded a project in which seniors create mats for the homeless out of discarded plastic bags. Using techniques Evanco learned through YouTube videos, the seniors weave the bags into weather-resistant mats, blankets and pillows.
The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
Anne Evanco sees no distinction between the artistic and the humanitarian.
“All the projects I’m doing are somehow related to humanitarian work,” said Evanco, who is 51. “I’m able to combine art with humanitarianism.”
Evanco’s latest project does just that.
As assistant programs supervisor at the Hope Mills Senior Center, Evanco has spearheaded a project in which seniors create mats for the homeless out of discarded plastic bags.
Using techniques Evanco learned through YouTube videos, the seniors weave the bags into weather-resistant mats, blankets and pillows. Evanco hopes to soon enlist other groups in making the items.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Evanco studied design and visual communications at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Along with her artistic endeavors, Evanco volunteered with the Red Cross, serving on 11 relief missions following disasters including ice storms, wildfires and hurricanes.
Evanco moved to Fayetteville after her marriage ended about 10 years ago to be close to some fellow Red Cross volunteers who live here, she said.
Along with volunteer work at the Red Cross Highlands chapter, Evanco designed posters for Gilbert Theater productions. She also has worked with Pinehurst seniors making flower sculptures that were donated to a Moore County hospice.
About three years ago, Evanco began working for the town of Hope Mills on its senior programs. Four or five months ago, she started work on the homeless sleeping mat program.
Evanco taught seniors how to weave the plastic bags into a kind of fabric. She said people have donated more than 30,000 bags to be used in the project.
“What we basically do is make yarn out of plastic,” she said. “They call it ‘plarn.'”
The work is time-consuming, but the seniors eventually created enough mats, blankets and pillows to donate to the Alms House and other charities.
Recently, Evanco said, she worked with clients at Connections of Cumberland County, which provides help to homeless women and children, in making the mats.
Crystal Bennett, Connections executive director, said she thought having the group’s clients help with the project was a good way for them to give back to the community. About 10 people participated, she said.
Bennett said two more sessions are planned this month. She said the plan is to train a client at Connections to teach other clients how to make the mats.
“I thought it went wonderful,” Bennett said. “They clipped and prepared the bags so that the (Hope Mills) seniors would have what they needed to complete the final project.”
The idea behind making the mats is to provide the homeless with a little comfort. But Evanco said she gets her own kind of comfort out of the process.
“When I’m working on something, hours can pass by,” she said. “I don’t hear, I don’t see, I’m in another world. It’s a meditative process. This is the way I meditate.”