Mississippi State University’s Maroon Volunteer Center starts their Mondays from 4-5 p.m. and ends their Fridays from 2-4 p.m. with their Popcorn and Plarn service project held in Moseley Hall, room 407B.
Popcorn and Plarn allows students to gain service hours by creating plastic yarn, or plarn. Graduate student and primary project organizer, Jaycee Smith, said the plarn is given to St. Joseph Catholic Church whose members crochet it together to make a bed mats for the homeless.
“The belief behind it is that they’re plastic so they are easy to wash off if you need to,” Smith said. “They don’t collect bugs and gross germs. Why we are saying it counts as service hours is because we’re doing the leg-work behind making the bed mats.”
The process to create plarn is simple. Students receive plastic bags that they fold over two times before cutting off the ends. The folded plastic is cut into four pieces. This creates four loops of plastic which are tied together to create the plarn.
Herbert Wise III, a senior criminology major from Orlando, Florida, said he originally attended Popcorn and Plarn in collaboration with the Black Student Association and the Maroon Volunteer Center. Wise said that not only is this project centered around community service, but it brings a community of people together.
“I come here almost every week, honestly,” Wise said. “I like community service, I like helping the community. I have friends I make in there (Popcorn and Plarn). You come in so many times, you meet new people every time. I like meeting people, so why not?”
Popcorn and Plarn is part of a larger effort led by Bags to Beds, a nonprofit organization founded in Salt Lake City, Utah. The bed mats are made entirely out of plastic bags. The finished product is a mosaic of bags from stores such as Wal-Mart and Kroger.
Quan Taylor, a student worker and junior communications major from Batesville, Mississippi, helps organize the event. He provides the popcorn and manages the clean-up of hundreds of scraps of plastic. He also has influence over the music selection, which is essentially any song queued by a Popcorn and Plarn participant.
“It’s fun,” Taylor said. “I get to meet new faces every now and then. People don’t know what plarn is, so I get to explain it to them. When I tell them they are creating a bed for a homeless person, their heart is like ‘Aww, wow. This is so nice.’ That’s fun, and just showing them the mat, showing them what it looks like, they’re even more excited because it’s so fascinating how bags can turn into beds.”
Popcorn and Plarn will be held for the remainder of the semester. As for next semester, dates and times have not been set yet.
Smith said service work is easy and a great opportunity for groups or organizations to serve the community together.
“We welcome all groups, all student organizations if they need service hours together,” Smith said. “They can come. I have found that it is mindless work. Once you get into it, you can turn on some music, hang out and have fun.”