If you ask Construction Accounting Specialist Kelly McPheron about the success of her plarn community service project, the first thing she’ll do is deflect all credit to her fellow Duke Realty associates.
“So many people have jumped on the bandwagon, helped, and organized,” she said. “I just want to make sure they get all the credit.”
As one might guess, plarn is a portmanteau of the words “plastic” and “yarn.” The community service project McPheron spearheaded involved repurposing plastic bags destined for the landfill into waterproof mats people experiencing homelessness can use as a safe place to sleep. Each mat requires 700 to 1,000 plastic bags to create, and it takes about 50 hours of labor by McPheron’s estimate.
“I couldn’t have created the number of mats we’ve been able to finish without everyone’s help,” she said. “It’s just so time consuming.”
McPheron got the idea for the plarn mats last fall after doing some research about uses for plastic bags, which can’t be recycled. She told Duke Realty’s HR team about her idea. They were supportive and as part of an associate engagement challenge around National Recycling Day, they sent out an email calling for recycled bag donations. From there, her little project snowballed into something much bigger.
One of McPheron’s coworkers asked her local Walmart to donate bags, and they happily gifted her 24,000 bags. Then, McPheron and her coworkers got to work crocheting the mats. The process involves cutting off the bag’s handles, cutting the seam at the bottom, and then dividing the bags into four strips. After that, the bags are linked together by tying knots.
McPheron realized she was late to jump on the plarn bandwagon when she began looking for local Indianapolis nonprofits to help distribute the mats she and her coworkers had made.
“I was shocked,” she said. “When I was calling around to organizations here in town, many of them said we already have too many. We don’t need any more.”
Fortunately, one of her fellow coworkers volunteers each month with an organization called https://food4souls.org/index.html that focuses on providing resources to people experiencing homelessness. So, they quickly mobilized to distribute the mats.
“Food 4 Souls has shared pictures and stories with us about the people that received the mats,” McPheron said. “It’s just amazing to hear about some of the people we’ve been able to help through this project.”
Philanthropy Goes Farther with Duke Realty
Each Duke Realty associate is given two community service days that they may use however they choose. In addition, the company will donate $10 per volunteer hour for each associate up to $1,000. The program is called “Dollars for Doers”.
McPheron’s “Dollars for Doers” donations went to the local chapter of https://indyhonorflight.org/, an organization that sends veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to honoring their sacrifices.
“Due to the pandemic, Honor Flight wasn’t able to send any veterans on trips the last couple of years,” McPheron said. “This year, the flights are starting back up. They have flights scheduled in April, May and June. It seemed like a great time to support their organization.”
McPheron hasn’t set a goal for the number of plarn mats she hopes to produce. She’s proud of everything she and her fellow Duke Realty associates have accomplished so far, and she’s grateful to work somewhere that supports her efforts.
“It means everything that Duke Realty encourages service in our community,” McPheron said. “We care about where we work and where we live. I love to volunteer, and it’s amazing we have the opportunity to do that here at work.”