Weaving a place to sleep

Facilities employees give generously to service project for homeless

When Leroy Sims’ church decided to make sleeping mats for Columbia’s homeless population from recycled plastic grocery bags, the custodial facilities manager at the University of South Carolina casually mentioned it to his colleagues. Next thing he knew, thousands of bags poured in.

About two dozen custodial and landscaping employees in university Facility Services donated bags to the project, and congregants at Broomhill Baptist Church in Rembert, S.C., started weaving them together to make the mats. About an inch thick and with a built-in pillow also made from the bags, the lightweight, waterproof mats can be rolled up and easily carried.

“This facilities department has some big hearts, and the heart that they gave with is unmistakable,” says Sims, who pastors the church in his spare time.

The initial goal was to make 10 mats and give them to individuals who are homeless, but with the number of bags donated and the amount still coming in, Sims says there is potential to make many more than that.

“Unless you’ve slept outside and had no place to lay your head, you will never know how much something like this means,” Sims says. “Unless you’ve been without a roof, you don’t realize why a mat like this is important for the homeless.”

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