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MercyOne team turns hospital materials into sleeping bags for homeless

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WATERLOO — Sterilization wraps are used to protect medical supplies before the equipment is used in surgery. Normally these blue, single-use materials would be thrown away.

But after seeing the idea in another part of the country, MercyOne breast surgeon Dr. Scott Stoeger worked with a team of colleagues to turn these operating room materials into mats and sleeping bags for the homeless. The work has become known as the “Blue Mat Project.”

“We’ve been able to take larger wraps and sew them into sleeping bags,” said Stoeger. “They are thermal and water resistant, so will help a lot, especially in the colder seasons.”

In addition to sewing on his own, Stoeger held team gatherings at his home to assemble more than 60 mats and sleeping bags. The group also purchased inexpensive pillows to complete the bundles.

“Several hospitals across the country have done similar projects with the mats, but you need to have something to put your head on,” he said.

With dozens of bundles now assembled, Stoeger has made his first donation to Peoples Community Health Clinic in Waterloo.

“I am so grateful for the creativity and compassion of Dr. Stoeger and that he thought of our patients,” said Christine Kemp, Peoples chief executive officer. “The concern we have for our homeless patients does not end when they walk out our doors. To know we’re able to provide them with a mat and pillow that can survive cold, wet elements brings us some peace of mind. We know these items will be greatly appreciated by those who use them.”

Stoeger also plans to donate mats and sleeping bags to the Catholic Worker House and Salvation Army.

“Dr. Stoeger and members of the Waterloo and Cedar Falls surgical teams and endoscopy collaborated to bring this project to life,” said Mary Jo Kavalier, site administrator of Cedar Falls Medical Center. “This project defines MercyOne and our mission to serve others.”


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