Are you looking for somewhere to volunteer in Mesa, AZ? If you can crochet, or even just wield a pair of scissors, you can put your talents to good use helping to make sleeping mats for homeless shelters.

Volunteer in Mesa AZ - making sleeping mats for the homeless

Sleeping Mat made from plastic grocery bags.

The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix hosts a workshop from 10 am – 1 pm on the second Saturday of every month except December. Volunteers cut plastic grocery bags into strips, which they knot into long strands of plastic yarn or “plarn” as it’s called.

Using the plarn, and large crochet hooks (size N or 10 mm), other volunteers crochet sturdy sleeping mats to be distributed to homeless shelters throughout the Valley.

It’s a labor of love. Each sleeping mat takes between 500 – 700 plastic bags and hours of time. Kathy, one of the volunteers, told us she works on mats at home while watching tv and can complete about 1 mat per month. The mats are often worked on by multiple volunteers, each one taking up where the last person left off, until the project is completed.

The mats are sturdy, washable and surprisingly soft to the touch. Once the mat is done, a crocheted cord acts as a tie and a carry strap.

The Humanists welcome volunteers of all ages, though the activity is not suitable for small children. You don’t have to know how to crochet. On the day we visited, Anita, the organization’s host, was busy teaching a new volunteer what to do, but still found time to explain the event to us.

Volunteer in Mesa AZ

Anita shows a volunteer how to crochet using “plarn”.

If you are interested in helping, the link to the organization is listed below. You can also just drop by, as we did, on the second Saturday of each month (except December). Bring a crochet hook, or Anita has some available for sale for $5.00. No need to bring bags, as the organization has plenty.

There are numerous YouTube videos for those wishing to learn how to crochet. My favorites are some that were created by the daughters of our guest contributor, Syri Gerstner. The videos were created when the girls were just 6 and 8 years old.

Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix; 627 W. Rio Salado Pkwy; Mesa, Arizona 85201; 10 am – 1 pm second Saturday of each month (except December)

YouTube videos:

Chain, single crochet, and slip stitch

An easy tutorial for double crochet

Wrapping a skein of yarn into a neat center-pull ball

Places to donate in Arizona:

Paz de Cristo – (located in Mesa)
UMOM – (located in Phoenix)
CASS – (also in Phoenix)
Heaven’s Healing Hands –


Thanks to Anita and Cate for that list of potential donation sites. There are probably many other places where you can donate mats. Search your local area for homeless shelters near you, or check with local churches. If you find an organization that could use these mats, be sure to let us know so we can add them to this list.

You don’t have to wait for a workshop to start making a mat. Start now!

If you make a mat and want to send us photos to use, click here.

One of our readers, Cate C. in Peoria, Arizona, sent us pictures of some of the beautiful mats she has made. LOVE the dog helper in the background! Thanks for all your hard work, Cate! You are an inspiration!

If you have pictures of the mats you have made, send them to us! We’d love to add them to this post.

Know of another Mesa volunteer opportunity? Let us know! We welcome guest submissions and photos.

Sleeping mats and sleeping dog
Sleeping mats made by Cate in Arizona.