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TYLER, Texas — Ferna Mills has a passion for helping others. So much that she spends most of her free time making sure that homeless men and women in East Texas have something warm to call their own. 

"I watched a video online in early 2017 that showed these two grandmas sitting in their living room in Tennessee, rocking their chairs, and crocheting bags," Mills said. "And I was so moved by it, that they were doing that for the homeless in Tennessee, that I said, I think I can do that because I can crochet."

Ever since then she's worked tirelessly, collecting plastic bags and turning them into beautiful handmade blankets and pillows that she then gives away to people living on the streets. 

She's got to work recruiting fellow members of her church to help with making the mats and has even started her own organization, Caring Hearts and Helping Hands. 

"I talked to my pastor at the church here and I asked him, I said, 'can I get together a meeting and see if I can find an interest in doing this,'" Mills said. "And we had the first meeting and I had about 17 or 18 people show up and so we started meeting every Wednesday."

Her group of fellow volunteers grew from less than 20 to now hundreds of people all over making blankets for their community members. She's even started groups in Nacogdoches, Flint and Austin. 

"I just needed to figure out how to do it and be able to show other people how to do it and that it's not hard," Mills said. "And you are giving so much not just to our community, but to all of East Texas."

It's definitely a labor of love. One mat takes hours and hundreds of plastic bags to make. 

"It takes about 60 hours to cut all the bags and get them strong and ready to go and it takes about 20 hours of crocheting," Mills said. "It takes about 650 to 700 bags."

In all, Ferna and her crew have made almost 400 mats for people here in East Texas and beyond. She credits her faith for motivating her to help others. 

"The Lord works in ways that we don't understand," Mills said. "And he planned something in your heart, and you give it a little kick, like, okay, I can do that. And he turns around and kicks you in the butt says, I know you can, you know. And he said I need you to do this."

Caring Hearts and Helping Hands is always looking for more volunteers, however, due to the pandemic, they're unable to hold their in-person crochet workshops. To find out how you can donate time, or supplies, head over to the Caring Hearts and Helping Hands website

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