New Life for Old Bags – The Right Thing

Posted by lunar in Aging, art, On making 3 Comments

A detail of a mat

It has been quite a year for many engaged humans in the long term care communities of Chicago thanks to Ruth Wertler, Life Enrichment Coordinator, and her residents of Bethesda Home and Retirement and many others who have been inspired to make.  You can check out another article of many about this special community and others inspired to change the culture of elder communities.

One year ago was the launch of the Chicago area New Life for Old Bags (NLOB).  As of January 4th there were 137 mats completed (with approximately 95,900 grocery type bags rescued from going to landfills) and distributed through area soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

So many gatherings, counted hrs and uncounted hours of purposeful engagement of elders in a long term care community.  Purposeful.  Not a “sense of purpose” but purposeful as Ruth reminded many of us during a presentation of the NLOB project to those of us also working in long term care.

The project is wonderful and mindful on so many levels that it is difficult to share all of the human connections this project embraces.  Corporations, churches, schools, staff, families, restaurant of an art center, and neighbors all have been educated about the project and have assisted in some way and so many ways over the last year.

Some statistics were shared at each table (and during each presentation) that Ruth has conducted:

Statistics of Homelessness in Chicago in 2009/2010

Here is  a quick slide show of some of the images taken today (think this X many hands, many people many locations and you will have a small grasp of this herculean project):

[slideshow]

The benefits to this project are truly endless but as an artist and a recreation therapist I can’t help but share a few:  social engagement, physical benefits, earth benefits, creation of a broad sense of community and our place in it, anticipation and cognitive stimulation, and just plain old FUN!!!  One cannot also help but mention what the excessive use of plastic does for our environment so the benefits for our environment are huge also.

A recent client of Cornerstone Community Outreach was observed with his mat under his arm while waiting in line for healthy food.  This is the quote from the email from the staff member at Cornerstone “Ruth, last Friday when I was serving lunch at Cornerstone, a guy came in line with one of the “bag mats” rolled up under his arm. I asked him about it and he smiled so wide as he said that it was fine and he was glad to have it. It is so humbling to think that this man who has to carry all his belongings with him considers that mat something of such value that he is willing to carry it everywhere he goes. Tell your NLFOB crew that what they do does make a difference. Thank you!”

Ruth honored many participants today at her community and I just had to share some images and videos of the event.  Several people in attendance couldn’t even take a break and kick back, they had to keep their hands busy making more plarn, mats, and friends.  Special thanks for First Slice Pie Cafe for the wonderful treats served for everyone.  A partner in caring for people less fortunate too.

Here are some of those in attendance working…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCtYj-hVgOA]

and

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1U6VPJPaT4]

and here the crocheting…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqLCY9MTEiQ]

It is an honor to know Ruth Werstler and I look forward to Ruth and many others leading the way to a purposeful life no matter one’s age.

Tags: aging, b, Culture Change, First Slice Pie Cafe, New Life for Old Bags, reuse, Ruth Werstler, Volunteerism


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