By Rich Place

About a dozen volunteers last Saturday donated their morning to create sleeping bags — made from recycled materials — intended to be used for the area’s homeless population.

The Springville Sleeping Bag Project, an unofficial branch of a larger national movement, has held a handful of meetings since early last year. But this past month’s meeting was the highest attended, getting organizers excited about the group’s future potential.

“We had a ball,” said Michelle Dziamski, one of the group’s organizers. “We were laughing. A lot of the people I did not know but I have new friends now and they are excited.”

The Springville Sleeping Bag Project was formed after Dziamski discovered the idea online. The founders of My Brother’s Keeper Quilt Group, the national organization, shared their story online and Dziamski said she felt the desire to learn how to make the sleeping bags and create a local group.

“As a school bus driver, a couple years ago I would drive downtown Buffalo and there would be a homeless person sleeping on the park bench with just blankets over them and snow on top of the blankets,” she said. “Seeing that first hand and finding this project, I just knew I wanted to do it.”

The group started small — sometimes with just Dziamski, her friend Dawn Stabell and Stabell’s daughter, Amy, attending some of the first meetings. Others expressed interest but were unable to make Saturday morning work sessions, Dziamski said.

The most recent gathering, though, had 11 people show up including Gail Potter, who is also part of Mats For A Mission and Friends Feeding Friends. Respectively, those two organizations help the homeless by giving them mats to lay on under sleeping bags and also by giving food, clothing and prayer.

“Gail told us about her programs which got everybody excited,” Dziamski said. “Between the three of our groups everybody was excited.”

The sleeping bags are made from recycled materials like curtains, fabric, towels, blankets or comforters, Dziamski said. Much of the work involves hand tying and hand sewing, adding an extra element of thought and care into each sleeping bag.

Dziamski said the group has made about nine sleeping bags so far and, now that she has worked with Potter, hopes they can begin being distributed in downtown Buffalo through the efforts already being performed by Mats With A Mission and Friends Feeding Friends.

As the group potentially expands, it has already taken on other ways of aiding the homeless other than sleeping bags — and could add more in the future. Dziamski said some volunteers work with plarn — that’s yarn made from recycled plastic bags — to help make mats to go under the sleeping bags, for example. Another volunteer also at the most recent meeting gave donations like toiletries to potentially begin making “blessing bags” to also give out with the sleeping bags.

“It’s already starting to grow a bit just in that one meeting,” Dziamski said.

The group is always looking for both volunteers and donations. Volunteers can attend the monthly work sessions at the Mortons Corners Baptist Church or can also work from home if they choose.

Dziamski created a Facebook group — which can be found by searching “The Springville Sleeping Bag Project” — and members can be added to learn more about what to do with potential donations and learn more about the group.

Dziamski said those who would like to make a donation can contact her at (585) 689-5015.

Those interested in helping can also show up to the group’s next meeting, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon in the basement of Mortons Corners Baptist Church, 13342 Mortons Corners Road just west of downtown Springville.