Collier students honored for innovative mats for homeless shelters


Students at Big Cypress Elementary School are were honored for the innovative mats designed for people to use in homeless shelters.

It takes approximately 500 plastic bags to make one mat. Six kids from Big Cypress Elementary School were able to mat a mat in an hour and a half, sixth grader Oen Frost said.

The mats then go to St. Matthew’s House, a Collier County organization serving thousands of homeless people in the area.

“The homeless population out here is probably a lot larger than most people realize,” said Gabriel Miller, of St. Matthew’s House.

Kristi Oen said she was surprised to find there were so many homeless people in an affluent area.

“In Naples, you don’t see homeless people, I’ve only ever seen one, but when we went to St. Matthews and found out there were 1000 registered homeless kids in Collier schools; we were just shocked,” Kristi said.

The mats act as a barrier. They can be rolled up like a sleeping bag and come with a pillow.

For Oen, he said the opportunity to help people in his community is exciting for him.

“It’s fun to see their reactions when you give them a mat,” Oen said.

The Big Cypress Elementary team won the Odyssey of the Minds competition for their mat design, beating teams from 50 states and 15 countries.

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