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Dodge Co. Woman Makes Plarn Bags for Operation Christmas Child | Community Spirit

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Dodge Co. Woman Makes Plarn Bags for Operation Christmas Child
Dodge Co. Woman Makes Plarn Bags for Operation Christmas Child

Marilynn Sanders sits at her kitchen table a creation of red and white in front of her and a plastic crochet needle in her hand. She is doing a single crochet stitch, with her ball of yarn laying on the table beside her.

Her dogs, Katie and Bo, lay on the floor underneath th kitchen table.

Upon closer inspection of the bag that Sanders is crocheting, a revelation hits the onlooker. The yarn isn't yarn – well, not the yarn that one stereotypically would expect to see someone crocheting from.

Sanders' ball of yarn is made of plastic – recycled plastic shopping bags. This one from Target. This yarn is called plarn, and is made out of cutting strips from recycled shopping bags and garbage bags.

The bags are durable and can be washed, and Sanders is making the plarn bags for a special cause – 'bags for boxes' is a fund-raising effort of sorts for the local campaign of Operation Christmas Child from Samaritan's Purse. For a donation of $10, one can get a small bag and for $25, one can have a bigger bag with a few more bells and whistles.

Marilynn Sanders sits at her kitchen table a creation of red and white in front of her and a plastic crochet needle in her hand. She is doing a single crochet stitch, with her ball of yarn laying on the table beside her.

Her dogs, Katie and Bo, lay on the floor underneath th kitchen table.

Upon closer inspection of the bag that Sanders is crocheting, a revelation hits the onlooker. The yarn isn't yarn – well, not the yarn that one stereotypically would expect to see someone crocheting from.

Sanders' ball of yarn is made of plastic – recycled plastic shopping bags. This one from Target. This yarn is called plarn, and is made out of cutting strips from recycled shopping bags and garbage bags.

The bags are durable and can be washed, and Sanders is making the plarn bags for a special cause – 'bags for boxes' is a fund-raising effort of sorts for the local campaign of Operation Christmas Child from Samaritan's Purse. For a donation of $10, one can get a small bag and for $25, one can have a bigger bag with a few more bells and whistles.

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Retired from Robins Air Force Base for more than eight years, Sanders, who is a member of the First Baptist Church in Eastman, serves as the volunteer campaign coordinator for the world organization's project in Dodge County. Operation Christmas Child has been called a “global Christmas gift exchange” project operated by Samaritan's Purse. Churches, schools and organizations collect shoe boxes filled with toys, school supplies, personal items and other gifts that are then distributed all over the world so that all children can receive Christmas.

Sanders, who came to Eastman in 1993 after marrying her husband, Randall, who is a Dodge County native, and she became involved with OCC through her church in 2000 when she started fixing boxes. In 2003, one of Sanders' boxes landed into the hands of a 10-year-old boy in Africa.

“I got a letter from him and his mother.” Sanders explained that the letters continued and e-mails between herself, Fred, the boy and his parents. A friendship was born. In 2006, Sanders and a friend from Dodge County went to Africa to surprise Fred on his thirteenth birthday. Today, Sanders stays in close contact and assists with Fred's schooling. He is 18 this year.

And it all started because of a shoe box filled with toys.

Sanders volunteers her time at coordinating the efforts of box collection in Dodge County. She visits churches and organizations to talk about Operation Christmas Child. She even mans an OCC table at area festivals.

She also has come up with neat crafty ideas for ways to raise money to fund shipping costs for boxes, like making the plarn bags. “Someone had posted the idea on a website, and so I looked into it and made a few adjustments, and started making them.”

It was at the annual Peaches to Beaches yard sale that Sanders' bags caught attention, and at that time she was going to do them to raise money for a mission trip to Africa. “A lady told me I should make a bottom for the purse.” She checked into using some cutting mats which she found at Walmart, and sewed them in to the bottoms. She found some ribbons and used ribbons and other doodads to personalize a plarn bag or purse. Sanders calls them totes. She also added a few different ways to close the bags – Velcro and snaps.

Sanders sold a few, but as word got out, she began to receive calls for more orders. She thought this would be a good idea to raise money and awareness for the shoe box project. “All the money goes for OCC. I would take this with me in my bag wherever I go and work on the bags … to the doctor's office, at the hospital and nursing home when my dad was there, in the car … I met a friend at Cheddar's for lunch recently, so I was making one of these bags, while I waited.”

She said that people do ask her questions all the time. “They want to know what I am doing and then I tell them, and I have the chance to tell them about Operation Christmas Child too.” She carries OCC brochures with her where she goes.

Pretty soon, her plarn bags caught on – so much so that she has received so many orders for bags that she is running a bit behind. She just trained a friend how to crochet, but could use some help cutting the bags into strips, crocheting the bags and looping the ball of plarn.

A bag takes about a full day to make - “If I didn't have anything else to do, I could get on done in about eight hours. The preparation of the plarn is a long process, which is why she would love some volunteer help. She raised $500 thus far with the bags - $160 of it went to the Africa mission trip.

Sanders promises that anyone can learn how to make a bag, and she will be glad to teach them. “We've made about 42 bags and have 26 people on a waiting list.”

She has plenty of bags – thanks to raiding the recycling bins where people toss their plastic bags in area stores, and to managers who have allowed her to get the bags. “We can get bags – Walmart, Piggly Wiggly, Target, Fred's and Dollar General … unless the bags are something different and unique – like Kroger or Publix.”

Pausing, Sanders said “I never expected any of this to happen like this … didn't know what would happen when I sent my box in 2003 … there is no doubt that this is all because of God.”

Anyone, not just residents of Dodge County, can help with the making of the plarn bags. For more information call Sanders at (478)374-3895. Sanders will also be glad to speak to your church or group about Operation Christmas Child.

 

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