By Kate Marlowe
For The Catholic Messenger
Clinton — In the summer of 2014, the Sisters of St. Francis began a program to pass out sack lunches once a week to those in need. In giving of themselves, they
have received many donations that have enhanced “Share Our Sandwiches.”
Several restaurants and businesses in Clinton have found ways to help the sisters lighten their load by providing potato chips or offering to make a meal so the sisters and their sandwich-making volunteers may take a Thursday off. Others in the area have contributed toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, winter coats and hats.
Betty Samuelson makes sure fresh bananas are available each week while her sister, Jeannette Klare, bakes dozens of cookies to accompany the sandwiches and chips. A team of volunteers passes out the sack lunches and items such as shampoo and laundry soap. Other area residents find new and creative ways to bolster the sisters’ efforts, such as making sleeping mats for people who are homeless.
Francie Hill, a Clinton Franciscan associate and sandwich program volunteer, wanted to learn more about the mats. “I was very interested in repurposing the grocery bags that, if not taken to be recycled, end up in our waterways or along the highway. This is a great way to help the environment and those in need at the same time.”
Karen Ingwerson of Fulton, Ill., who creates the mats, was asked to show others how to make them. Ingwerson was happy to help with the project she had started as a creative outlet a couple of years ago. “My husband told me we couldn’t take my craft stuff with us where we winter,” she said. “When he put his foot down I found something else to do.”
Before she arrives at her winter destination, used plastic grocery bags have already been collected for her. This allows her to travel with just one craft item: a large crochet hook. The bags are cut into strips and tied end to end before being wound into a ball. The “plarn,” or plastic yarn, is then crocheted into a 3-foot by 6-foot mat, which helps the mat’s owner stay warmer and keeps blankets and other possessions from getting wet. Someone suggested Ingwerson donate the mats to Share Our Sandwiches. So she gave three to the program and three to a hospital.
Rose Anne Smith, a retired nurse from Andover, who attended Ingwerson’s class, decided to use the balls of plarn as a teaching tool and craft activity at vacation bible school at Faith Lutheran Church of Andover. “We talked to the children about being homeless, that homelessness is about people who don’t have a place to stay or sleep,” Smith said. “A lot of (the children) got down on the mat to try it out.” Faith Lutheran prepared several balls of plarn to be delivered to The Canticle for mat-making.
“It was really touching how Share Our Sandwiches inspired others in the community to find new ways to help those in need,” said Sister Anne Martin Phelan, president of the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton.
Share Our Sandwiches serves from three locations at noon on Thursdays in Clinton: 416 S. 1st St., 250 20th Ave. N and 1522 Lincolnway.