Goodwill helps the environment and the homeless through craft activity

As Earth Day approaches, Goodwill keeps trash from area landfills through 'Bags to Beds' community service project

Published Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sam Valentin (left) of Goodwill Manasota and eco-artist Michele PennSARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – As Earth Day approaches, Goodwill Manasota – the pioneer of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” movement – is proud to showcase its commitment to protecting the environment. In an effort to find new ways to be good stewards of the planet, Goodwill Manasota is taking a stand on plastic shopping bags, many of which end up as litter, clog sewers, and pose a hazard to plants and wildlife as they find their way to our beautiful beaches. 

While consumers may plan to take the bags back to the store to recycle, many never actually get around to it.  And others may feel guilty throwing them in the garbage, knowing they will never disintegrate. According to environmental group ManaSota-88, plastic makes up 80 percent of the volume of litter on roads, in parks and on beaches, and 90 percent of floating litter in the ocean.

To fight this environmental scourge, Goodwill is partnering with eco-artist Michele Penn on a free community class called “Bags to Beds.” Community members are learning how to repurpose those bags and give back to the community by making sleeping mats for the homeless.

Michele Penn is an award-winning photographer, an inspirational speaker and a best-selling contributing author. She teaches participants how to use plastic bags to create “plarn” (plastic yarn) and crochet them into sleeping mats for the homeless. Once completed, Penn brings the mats to the Resurrection House in Sarasota for distribution to those in need.

“I believe that that everyone has the opportunity to reduce waste and give back to our community,” said Penn. “The collaboration with Goodwill Manasota is helping to emphasize the ‘goodwill’ each person can contribute toward making our community a better place.”

 “We are always searching for innovative ways to enhance our positive environmental impact – we love to collaborate with environmentally-friendly partners like Michele Penn,” said Sam Valentin, Goodwill Manasota’s community engagement manager. “By providing comfortable spaces and offering free educational, cultural and philanthropic activities designed to meet the needs of our local residents, we are helping to create a stronger, safer, more vibrant, and better-connected community.”

The Bags to Beds workshops take place at Goodwill’s Honore Community Room (1704 N. Honore Ave., Sarasota) on the first Monday of each month from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and the second Thursday of each month from 12:30-1:30 p.m. All materials are provided but participants are welcome to contribute bags from home.

Last year, Goodwill’s donated goods business activities and salvage operations diverted 40 million pounds of waste from area landfills. For more information, go to or call (941) 355-2721.


PHOTO ID: Sam Valentin (left) of Goodwill Manasota and eco-artist Michele Penn

About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With the sales of donated goods and philanthropic donations, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment by providing job skills training and employment opportunities. In 2016, Goodwill Manasota served 28,207 people, placed 755 people in jobs and assisted 240 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $92.1 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted more than 40 million pounds out of the landfill. We accomplish our mission through a network of Good Neighbor Centers in Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties and our Mission Development Services (MDS) around North America. Goodwill Manasota is accountable to a local Board of Directors. Goodwill Manasota, in essence, belongs to this community and is not owned by any individual or company. For more information, visit