A summer to remember – Rachel Ehlers

Mission | August 12, 2020

Editor’s note: St. Paul teens are sharing their experiences from this summer to remember. Today, we hear from Rachel Ehlers about one of her 4-H projects in the Citizenship and Civic Engagement class. She is a member of the Blue Grass Junior/Intermediate Sunshine Workers. Her mom, Angie Ehlers, and fellow St. Paul member Amy Paustian are leaders.

What was your exhibit/project goal(s)?

My goal was to help out local food pantries by providing a way for customers to pick up food without using plastic bags or boxes.

How did you go about working toward your goal(s)?

I figured out how to alter a t-shirt to make it into a make-shift grocery bag. Then my mom asked several friends if they had any gently used t-shirts that they would want to donate. I contacted the Riverbend Food Bank but they were not interested in them because they said they deliver everything in boxes. Then I called the Buffalo Food Pantry, St. Paul’s Madison Market, and North Scott Food Pantry. All of them were interested in trying them and seeing if they worked. Then I washed and dried all the shirts and made them into bags. Lastly, we delivered them to the food pantries.

What were the most important things you learned as you worked toward your goal(s)?

I learned that recycling an item and putting it to good use is a great thing! I felt really good to be able to make these for people who need them. The food pantries were going through a lot of plastic bags, and I think during the Covid-19 scare, it was the perfect time to offer these bags. Being able to wash and dry the shirts is a huge benefit.

What is the cost?

There was no cost to my project. Friends donated all the shirts and my aunt gave me the thread to use.

In March, I saw on Instagram that employees at the Iowa Pork Producers Association were making t-shirt bags for the Des Moines Foodbank. I asked my mom if I could make some so she called her friend who works for IPPA. She said to call area food banks and see if they would like to try them. IPPA had a link to go into and see how they were making them, so I did.

This is me making the t-shirts:

First, I cut off the sleeves and around the neck.

Then I folded the shirt in half and cut off the bottom hem.

I turned the shirt inside out and sewed a seam across the bottom. I made sure I sewed it twice to reinforce the bottom because I knew it would be holding a lot of weight. If the shirt was an extra large or bigger, I sewed up the arm holes about halfway so they wouldn’t be so big. That way more food could go into the bag.

In all, 13 people gave me shirts and IPPA sent me 20 pork shirts. In all, I made 180 t-shirt bags!

I enjoyed this project very much. It was great helping out three area food pantries. I was happy to hear that they are using them and that they like them, too!

4 Comments on “A summer to remember – Rachel Ehlers”

  • Susan Grove

    August 15, 2020 at 3:48 pm

    Good going, Rachel! I love this idea. It’s been so disheartening to have all those plastic bags when we grocery shop. So many to recycle! My reusable bags are getting a long vacation. I hope these bags get reused and reused! This was a great project!

  • Audrey Keeney

    August 15, 2020 at 11:40 am

    What a great idea. People will continue to take these bags with them when shopping. You made a lot of bags. Thank you for sharing this. Hopefully it will inspire us to all work harder and not rely on plastic bags so much.

  • Tami Byram Mahl

    August 13, 2020 at 9:39 pm

    Great job, Rachel! What a wonderful idea! So proud of your generosity!

  • Marcia Willi

    August 13, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    I just have to commend Ms. Ehlers on a job well done! That’s a great idea, for all of us.

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