Julianna Shorette: An Entrepreneur With a Humanitarian Heart
Julianna Shorette: An Entrepreneur With a Humanitarian Heart
Story by Katrice Williams | Photography by Leidi Lester
“There is such a large homeless population in Savannah. I may not be able to give them a home, but at least they’ll have an insulated mat to sleep on,” Julianna says.
Plarn is a portmanteau of plastic and yarn and is used to knit or crochet plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats, providing a waterproof barrier for sleeping on the ground—something that is especially beneficial to the homeless population.
Plastic is a durable material that is easy to maintain. The idea has been used worldwide to offer better sleeping conditions for homeless individuals. Over the past decade, the simple yet ingenious concept has gained notoriety, providing homeless communities with hygienic, waterproof and easily transportable protection.
“What I realized was that a lot of the homeless in the Savannah area sleep on benches. As we know, Savannah can be very rainy, especially throughout hurricane season. It’s probably not comfortable at all to sleep on the wet, cold benches,” Julianna says.
Julianna knows that her compassion and generosity stem largely from her grandma Sharon Noakes, who has long embraced a sincere heart for service to her community.
Sharon is one of Julianna’s biggest inspirations. Julianna enjoys the time spent with her grandma helping those in need. Sharon participates in various service activities alongside her church community—Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania. When Julianna has visited her over the holidays, they have participated in the church’s “Operation Shoe Box” together, where shoe boxes are made and decorated, then filled with donated gifts to provide Christmas presents for underprivileged children.
In addition, Sharon’s church has been involved in a plarning project for the homeless. In October, she sent Julianna a newsletter talking about the project.
“She is always helping out at church with service projects in order to give back to her community. It really inspired me to do something similar in my own community,” Julianna says.
Pooler Plarn Begins
That is exactly what Julianna did. She did a lot of research and became acquainted with the plarn process of cutting plastic bags in order to braid or weave them.
“Like any kid, I YouTubed how to weave the mats. I tried some different methods,” she says.
As with most newly developed skills, trial and error often plays a part in learning the process. But after a lot of practice, Julianna began to get the hang of it all. She even began to understand the importance of the little things, such as how necessary it is to cut the bags evenly so that there is no stray plastic hanging from the mats upon completion. It takes about 500 plastic bags to make one mat.
Julianna—a member of Ascension Lutheran Church—contacted its Grace Ministry, which has a notable outreach program that is dedicated to helping those in need in the local area. Every Saturday at 7:00am, the ministry distributes toiletries to the local homeless community. Julianna knew that it would serve as a great avenue to distribute her mats, and the church was on board. She could not be more thrilled.
“They really appreciate it and think it’s a good addition to the ministry,” she says.
Further, Julianna’s workplace donates countless bags for the cause. Her family has also been a great support system; they, too, strive to help with the initiative.
“All of my family donate bags that they collect from going to the grocery store,” she says. Such simple acts have proved to do a world of good.
As a high school student who takes pride in maintaining good grades while also working part-time, Julianna gives much of the available time she has to the plarn cause. Each mat can take over a week to complete, or about 10 hours total from start to finish. There are various ways in which the mats can be made.
“There are lots of different ways that you can do it. I found the easiest way for me—though my weaving method may be different, it’s basically the same outcome,” she says. From airing out the bags before the proper cuts and folds are made to separating the plarn, the entire process can be detailed and extensive. Upon completion, each mat measures about 6 feet by 2.5 feet. Julianna’s goal is to provide about 10 mats every two months.
Though Julianna is the heart behind the project, she appreciates the love and support of her family. She is thankful for her parents—her mom Stephanie and her dad Chris. Her mom helps collect bags for the cause. She is also grateful to have the assistance of her two younger sisters: Kourtney, 12, and Teagan, 11.
“Usually, I’ll have my sisters to cut the bags for me so that I’ll save time on that. They’ve gotten good about flattening out the bags into colored, sorted stacks for me to cut,” she says. In fact, Kourtney and Teagan may even continue Pooler Plarn when Julianna goes to college.
Making a Difference
Julianna takes a world of pride in Pooler Plarn, and she is just getting started. The young humanitarian is excited about the growth of her organization. She would be happy to see even more young people take part in the cause; she is looking forward to training her church’s youth group.
“I think that would be good—the more mats that can be made to help the homeless plight, the better,” she says.
She encourages others to make a positive impact on their community by helping individuals in need, understanding that even the smallest effort can make a big difference.
“A lot of organizations that help the homeless in our area need a lot of items, such as toiletries and basic necessities – sunscreen in the summer or gloves in the winter,” she says.
Planning for the Future
Upon graduating, the talented honor student plans to obtain a business degree while majoring in human resource management. It is all completely within her reach, as Julianna has the mindset necessary for true and lasting success. She has recently been privileged to receive a business-related internship opportunity.
In her spare time, Julianna enjoys playing golf; she is confident that her skill set will prove to be useful to her future career endeavors since golf is one of the most popular recreational sports for many business professionals.
The future is bright for Julianna Shorette, especially as she continues to make an incredible difference in the lives of others.