2017-10-12 / News

From homesick to helping the homeless

Swartz Creek graduate turns hobby into benevolent project
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

Julian Reinfelder learned to crochet to cope with homesickness at college. Now, she uses that skill to help others who are less fortunate. 
Photo by Lania Rocha Julian Reinfelder learned to crochet to cope with homesickness at college. Now, she uses that skill to help others who are less fortunate. Photo by Lania Rocha MUNDY TOWNSHIP – Jylian Reinfelder was already hooked on crocheting when she discovered a way to combine her craftsmanship with her passion for helping others.

Earlier this year, the 19-year-old Mundy Township woman stumbled upon a video tutorial about repurposing used grocery bags to make plastic mats for the homeless.

“I thought, what a great cause,” said Reinfelder. “It’s something I enjoy doing, and I can do something good for people.”

A 2016 Swartz Creek graduate and psychology major at Michigan State University, Reinfelder took up crocheting last winter to stave off homesickness.

“My first semester in college was fine,” she said. “I loved it. But after Christmas break, I was so homesick. I hated it.”

Reinfelder learned to crochet by watching YouTube videos, and soon found that it helped her unwind.

“I made so many things that were crappy, and I screwed up a lot, but it gave me something to do,” she said.

Not long after that, while scrolling through Facebook, she saw a post about crocheting mats for the homeless.

Though she has little free time between school, working as a nanny and tutor, and yoga, she made sure to set aside a few hours every week to cut up plastic bags, loop them together, roll them into balls of “yarn,” and crochet a 6-foot-by-3-foot mat.

“Cutting the bags takes the most time,” she said. “I’ll sit for hours and cut a ton of bags and make a bunch of balls of yarn. My mom helps cut the bags.

“The crocheting part is easy. Once I get going, I can get quite a bit done. It’s pretty simple if you know how to crochet.”

Reinfelder used a 10 mm hook and simple single stitches to make the mat and a carrying strap.

The completed mat is “cushier than you’d think,” sturdy and washable, and it helps protect against cold and moisture.

Reinfelder said she’ll keep crocheting mats as long as people keep giving her bags. She’ll work with the Soup Kitchen in Flint, where she volunteers, to get the mats to the people who need them.

She said she developed an appreciation for helping others while working under the leadership of Deb Culver with Peers Who Care at Swartz Creek High School.

“Mrs. Culver is one of the best women I could ever hope to be like some day,” she said. “She inspired us to do so many things.”

Along with fellow Peer Meara Miller, Reinfelder helped create the Threads program to provide clothing for other students.

“I’ve always had a heart for people. I try to be extremely positive. I’m a glass-half-full person. If I’m making someone’s day better just by holding open a door or giving them a reason to smile, I love doing it.”

The experience with Peers Who Care made Reinfelder appreciate her own blessings.

“I started seeing that I was very fortunate,” she said. “I have supportive parents, financial stability. I started seeing students who didn’t have that. It was life-changing to realize not everyone was brought up with parents who give emotional support, take care of their needs.”

Reinfelder knows that a lot of people don’t care about the homeless or others in need.

“But a lot do,” she said. “I have a hard time believing people would be homeless if they didn’t have to be. If someone can see that someone cares … it’s a good starting place to give people hope.”

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