A ONE-woman mission to convert empty crisp packets into warm blankets, sleeping bag covers and mats for rough sleepers is growing into a mini ‘cottage industry’ in Grimsby.
Our well-known former participant Caz White, 26, was in her flat when she read about the idea on social media, after it had caught on in other parts of the country.
Inspired to do something for those less fortunate than herself, she started small at the start of November. Little did she know that by early December she would have 33,000 empty packets stored in her flat with a further 67,000 made into the warm products, many of them already delivered to rough sleepers in the North East Lincolnshire area.
So large has the initiative become, that the team at Freeman Street Market has offered use of one of their social rooms at arranged times and up to 10 volunteers have joined Caz in her efforts.
“I cannot believe it. It started when I just asked the market if I could put a collection box out and explain what I was doing, and it has exploded from there. We now have collection points in Immingham and Cleethorpes. People are just hearing about it and dropping packets off all of the time,” said Caz.
Explaining the process, Caz said initially all the packets were washed in her shower and bath at home, but it got out of hand and now cleaning products are used by her and the volunteers. The packets are then ironed together, taking about 300 to make the two-layer sleeping bag covers.
The items are put into care packages with other goods donated and delivered to people on the streets.
“When I spoke to someone in Cleethorpes who I had given the blanket to, they said it was the warmest thing they had ever had,” said Caz.
For Caz, she sees her efforts as ‘giving back’ after overcoming her own troubles. Whilst never without a roof over her head, her former years saw her lack confidence and with her own issues, she needed help. That came in the form her work with CatZero when she joined one of our programmes for young unemployed people in 2018.
Now with the confidence to strike out on her own, she works at Seachill, is developing a quilt-making business and has achieved her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Caz also volunteers for the Beaver Scouts and Sea Scouts and completed Danny Watson’s coast-to-coast cycle ride in 2019. She’s also in training for a fund-raising rollerblade from our offices in Grimsby to the charity’s base at Hull Marina next year.
“I know CatZero’s still there for me but there was a time when I would rely on the team there for everything and I truly believe that’s no longer the case. What sets CatZero apart is the long-term support, which is so valuable as it takes time to stand on your own two feet, to say to yourself you can be your own person. CatZero has supported me to be the person I am now becoming, and I want to give something back,” said Caz.
Fellow volunteer Rachael Filby from Barton was also busy making the blankets and delighted to help: “I was brought up on ‘The Nunny’. I grew up with Richard Finn, the well-known face around Grimsby who died earlier this year and that made me realise that I wanted to do something to help others,” she said.
“If you’re a young person who feels as I did – lost, suffering from depression and with no future, needing help to sort a long list of challenges and get life on track, I strongly recommend you contact CatZero. It’s recruiting 14 to 24 year-olds for support and development programmes and I can’t recommend it enough, added Caz.
As the volunteers continue to make their valuable blankets, they have also gained an insight into the crisp-eating habits of North East Lincolnshire: “Ready Salted and Cheese & Onion are most certainly the most popular,” revealed Caz.
If you want to help or find out more, you can find Caz on social media.
If you want to find out more about our programmes please email [email protected]