Project provides holiday warmth

Penticton students weaving plastic bags into sleeping mats to be distributed to the homeless

A project that started last year to provide warm sleeping mats to the homeless and needy is continuing this year, thanks to the efforts and dedication of a group of students from Penticton Secondary.

Last year, Ashley Aoki started a project of weaving discarded plastic bags into sleeping mats, which were then distributed in Penticton and on East Hastings in Vancouver.

Aoki graduated in June, but before she did, she passed the project on to Jolene Hayter, Kimberley Swaney and a group of students.

Besides making the blankets after school, she also decided to do the warm clothing drive again, figuring the two projects would mesh well. So this year, the students are bundling the woven plastic mats with warm clothing, blankets or other winter essentials.

“We bundle them up and tie them … the plastic sleeping mat with a jacket and a pair of mittens or some socks or a sweater, just some warm clothing they can put on when they are walking around.” said Swaney.

They’re collecting clothing donations until Friday at Cherry Lane shopping centre, with a drop-off bin next to Santa’s castle.

The crew weaving the blankets has grown as well, said Swaney. From the four or five people that were helping Aoki out last year, there are now about 10 regulars.

“There are usually three or four people helping and it takes half an hour, maybe 45 minutes,” said Swaney, describing the mat-weaving process, which can take up to 400 bags. “We have people always dropping bags off at the school or we get donations. All the parents involved save their extra plastic bags and stuff.”

This year, they are hoping to distribute the bags through the Cold Snap Inn and the Soupateria, where Swaney also volunteers. Unlike East Hastings in Vancouver, she said, the homeless and needy in Penticton aren’t as visible.

“I was going to do it before we serve them lunch. I figured that would be the best place to hand them out,” said Swaney. “I see people at the Soupateria and think, ‘You could use a new winter jacket.’ It would be nice to give them the clothing and the mats.”

Swaney said her personal drive to help this way stems from a mission trip to Vancouver, when she spent two weeks serving the homeless on East Hastings.

“I thought this would be a good way to continue the fire of helping these people. It kind of grew into a passion,” she said.

The graduating students are already making plans for helping the mat-weaving project continue.

“Next year when all of us graduate, were going to pass it on to the younger ones that are in the group right now,” said Swaney.


Just Posted

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Renderings of what the skating rink could look like beside City Hall between Martin and Main in downtown Penticton. (Activate Penticton image)
Outdoor skating rink back at Penticton council

City staff recommend going forward with rink which could host 2022 BCHL’s 60th year celebration

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read