A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

St. Philip’s School and Parish recycle 50,000 plastic bags into gifts for homeless; teaching kindness

By Steve Oldfield
Children, Inc.

They’re one of the smallest grade schools in Northern Kentucky, but big things happen at St. Philip’s in Melbourne when students and their parish community work together.

They have collected more than 50-thousand plastic store bags that have been woven into mats, backpacks and pillows for the homeless. Students received a lot of help from their neighbors, the Sisters of Divine Providence.

“I’ve been blown away by how everyone has embraced the project,” said Shari Petri, who goes by Shari The Baglady. She works with schools and community centers around Northern Kentucky, teaching young and old how to turn the plastic bags into “plarn” – plastic yarn. Petri and volunteers then crochet the yarn into a variety of items that help the homeless and others in need.

At St. Philip, every one of their 72 students has been involved in the project. Kindergarteners sorted the bags by color. Other students folded, cut and tied the bags, while seventh and eighth graders prepared the plarn. All the while, their teachers were weaving the exercise into a powerful lesson about pollution and protecting our oceans, where plastic bags can kill fish and other wildlife.

“The animals in the sea are dying because of all the garbage in the ocean,” said Mitchell, a fifth grader. “I think all the schools should do it to save these bags from ending up polluting the environment.”

“What has impressed me the most is how they were able to turn it into such an education about the ocean,” Petri said. “They have really embraced it.”

“I thought it was just amazing how we did all of that,” said Abby, a sixth grader.

“At first we didn’t even know plastic bags could do that.”

Petri helped the students convert all of the plastic into matching backpacks, mats and pillows that went to the homeless outreach program at St. Anthony Church in Taylor Mill.

Petri used the leftover plarn from St. Philip to create several giant pillows for the Cincinnati Museum Center and 10 dog beds for an animal shelter.

Reflecting on the project, students say they learned more than how to recycle plastic and to protect the oceans.

“Shari taught me to be loving and kind,” said Mitchell. His classmate, Abby, agreed.

“I learned that even though I’m young, I can still make a difference in the world.”

For more information: www.ShariTheBaglady.com

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One Comment

  1. ruth bamberger says:

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! How creative the REUSE! Congratulations to all the students for this project.
    This is religion in practice in the 21st century. … In the meantime, we can reduce use of plastic bags by bringing our reusable bags, especially the washable cloth type, for our groceries.

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