By Lorelee A. Sankarlal

Aloisia Stiles and her husband, David, Centennial residents of 42 years, have found a great way to reuse milk bags and help the homeless.

About four years ago, Aloisia heard a church member at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Highland Creek explain how to make the bags into outdoor sleeping mats. Aloisia, who strongly believes that acts of charity improve the world, wanted to make a difference personally and she quickly did an internet search to find detailed instructions for creating the mats. Sharing her excitement, David put his carpentry skills to work building a 4’x7’ weaving loom for Aloisia to use.

Milk bag weaving is a bit of a process as the bags must be rinsed, dried, flattened, cut into strips, and then woven onto the loom. It takes about 500 milk bags and almost 50  hours for one person to make one adult-sized mat. The ends of the bags are cut off as they cannot be woven, but nothing is wasted. The end bits and other bag scraps are stuffed into pillows that go with the mats.

Milk bag mats are used as outdoor sleeping mats in developing countries, and even for the homeless in the GTA. They provide some protection from bugs, dirt and moisture for those who must sleep on the ground. Canadian milk bags are made of plastic that doesn’t break down in landfill. Because of this they make durable, water resistant bedding that is also UV ray resistant, and are easy to fold up and move from place to place.

When enough mats are made, Aloisia and David make a trip to Mississauga to drop them off at the head office of Canadian Food for Children. CFC is a not-for-profit that ships containers of the mats along with used clothing, shoes, school supplies and other items to countries where the population has experienced a natural disaster or is simply in need. Regular shipments were sent to Peru, Haiti, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and many other places prior to the pandemic.

Aloisia and David are grateful for the support of their neighbours and friends, like Emma Maras a few doors down, who collect bags for them. The pandemic may have slowed some aspects of life down, but not their milk bag mat weaving as they are still busy making mats at home. However, their supply of bags has run low. If any Centennial residents would like to donate clean, dry milk bags that are folded (a great job to keep kids engaged), they can drop them off at 47 Ramblewood Drive. Just leave them in a bag at the front door. And if you want to learn how to create your own loom or how to weave the mats, they are happy to speak with you about it. Just drop them a note with your phone number in their mailbox.