December 20, 2013 in City

Woman goes to mat to give homeless comfort

Bubble wrap turned into practical pads
Tad Sooter Kitsap Sun
 
Larry Steagall photos photo

Sheri Rose puts the pillow inside one of her completed homeless mats.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

BREMERTON, Wash. – Bubble Wrap gets packed into boxes, popped by children and eventually tossed away.

Bremerton resident Sheri Rose has found a new use for the ubiquitous space filler: giving the homeless a better night’s sleep.

Rose, a 65-year-old member of Faith Community Bible Church, has spent her long nights with scissors and tape in hand, fashioning sheets of recycled Bubble Wrap into mats and pillows. She donates the sleeping bundles to local shelters.

Bubble Wrap might not sound luxurious, but it is lightweight, waterproof, easy to clean and plentiful. To someone sleeping in a car or in the woods, the simple mats can be a great comfort, Rose said.

“They’re out there sleeping on the cold, wet ground just getting soaked,” Rose said.

The idea for her “Bubble Wrap Outreach Ministry” developed gradually. Years ago, Rose began collecting clothes abandoned at laundromats to donate to shelters. Later, she answered a call to gather sleeping bags for the homeless.

Then someone at the Bremerton Salvation Army told her sleeping bags weren’t always enough to keep homeless people warm and dry. The idea of people shivering through the night hit Rose hard.

“I cried the whole way home,” she said. “I thought there had to be something that could be done.”

Rose prayed on the problem for weeks. Bubble Wrap was her eventual answer.

She explained her idea for low-cost mats to the staff of Arnold’s Home Furnishings. The store agreed to donate van-fulls of recycled Bubble Wrap to her project. Rose and volunteers have made more than 130 mats over the past three years.

The assembly process is simple but time consuming. Rose starts by cleaning adhesives and grime off the plastic and patching any holes. She doubles up the Bubble Wrap sheets, cuts them into generous rectangles and tapes the edges to make them durable.

“It’s labor intensive, but that’s all it is,” she said. “It’s not rocket science.”

Finished mats are paired with pillows and a homemade felt hood. Rose attaches a small pouch with a chocolate bar and other gifts to each sleeping bundle as a personal touch.

She has delivered mats to Bremerton Foodline warming shelter, Salvation Army and the Kitsap Rescue Mission. Feedback has been very positive, she said.

“They absolutely love them,” she said.

Salvation Army Maj. Marcia Baker said the mats are especially effective for people sleeping outside.

“The homeless in the outdoors have found them a great comfort,” Baker said.

Rose hasn’t been getting much sleep herself this month. She’s been working into the early mornings to finish a batch of mats for the Rescue Mission before Christmas. The sleepless nights will be worthwhile if she can help others sleep easier.

“I’m a workhorse when it comes to this,” she said.


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