Students Turning Surgical Wrappers Into Sleeping Mats, Pillows for Homeless

**Embargo: Des Moines-Ames, IA** DMACC's Surgical Technology students have seen their fair share of stitches and sutures. They are currently learning how to aid doctors in the operating room. But this week the sewing is happening outside the OR to help the homeless this Thanksgiving.

DES MOINES, IA (WHO) — DMACC’s Surgical Technology students have seen their fair share of stitches and sutures. They are currently learning how to aid doctors in the operating room. But this week the sewing is happening outside the OR to help the homeless this Thanksgiving.

Before surgery, utensils are always wrapped to be sterilized, but then those surgical wrappers are quickly discarded and head straight for the landfill. That’s why the DMACC surgical technology students decided to repurpose them into sleeping mats and pillows for the homeless.

“It’s nice to see that we can do this and use it for a good purpose instead of it just wasting away,” Elizabeth Englebrecht, DMACC surgical technology student said.

What is usually trash is now being stuffed, sewn, and sent to those who don’t have a home for the holidays.

“Just trying to keep them dry, their bodies dry, their heads dry, and get them a good night’s sleep,” professor and program chair for DMACC’s surgical technology program, John Hadley said.

With help from other health and public service students, they turned the water repellent surgical wrappers into sleeping mats that can go underneath sleeping bags and pillows. Hadley says when you layer the surgical wrappers they almost become waterproof.

“As a student when I first heard it I thought, ‘oh my gosh, with everything else going on how are we going to have the time?’ But then I feel like you have to take a step back from your own perspective and put yourself in another person’s shoes and say ‘that’s going to benefit somebody else that doesn’t have as much as we do,’” Englebrecht said.

After months of stocking up from clinical sites around the metro, the transformed wrappers are ready to be distributed with help from local homeless organizations like JOPPA and Biker Mark Ministries.

“We got wind of this and said ‘yes we want to do this because it will be with the homeless.’ When they pick up and move they can take it with them. They can put it under their mattress or sleeping bags. The water won’t come up through and moisture won’t come up through and chill them,” BykrMark Carver said.

The surgical wrappers and pillows are strung together with yarn and topped with a handmade card from both elementary students and DMACC childcare kids.

The surgical technology department believes these repurposed tools will not only help the homeless throughout these cold winter holidays but also give them hope.

“We just think about Thanksgiving coming up all the food, well at least that’s what I think. But I know people who are homeless, they don’t have food so they don’t have that safety. So I hope this will make them feel safe,” Englebrecht said.

“I hope they feel like there are people in the community that care about them and want to help them out,” Hadley said.

The students made over 100 pillows and sleeping mats each on Monday afternoon and will be distributing the care packages on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This DMACC program isn’t the first to think of this. Programs and hospitals around the country have started to repurpose these surgical wrappers as well.

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