Almost every day I walk past the local laundromat. It’s two blocks away from my house and another two blocks (or so) away from church. Inside there is a nice cafe with natural, organic foods and espresso. In the summertime, the place is PACKED. We live in a tourist area and the campers and RVs that line our waterfront are filled with persons who need to do laundry eventually. With only five washers and five dryers, the place stays busy. But, in the wintertime, when the tourists stay far away from our Alaskan cold and snow (and rain) it slows down. But that’s the time that it’s just locals in the laundromat–persons who don’t have laundry facilities in their home. Perhaps their apartment didn’t come with a washer and dryer. Maybe they are kind of “between homes,” sleeping on couches or in trailers. Maybe they are “off the grid” and have no running water at all…which is the case for more than a few folks around.
Every day I’d pass by. I don’t have much reason to go in. Our washer and dryer work fine in our home. Occasionally I’d stop by for a coffee or a black bean burger at the cafe.
But, late this summer, as I could see the tourists starting to go, I wondered what it would be like to offer a free laundry night every once in a while; you know, to bless those folks who came there to wash their clothes after all the summer visitors were gone and the seasonal workers had moved on to the next job in another state.
I stopped by and started a conversation with the owner. It was just a conversation. I was just sharing an idea. I wondered if it would be possible to offer free laundry for folks who might need it. I had no clue how much money it would cost to essentially “rent out” the machines for the night. I wondered if it would be possible to bring in food to share with folks as they washed and dried and folded and waited.
Our schedules filled up. The available days were limited. With the Christmas season approaching I wasn’t sure it was going to happen.
But, two weeks in advance we found a date…last Friday. I was available. The owner was available. We could make some flyers. I could get information handed out at the local food pantry for two weeks, knowing that those persons who went to the food pantry might just be the ones who would need this most.
And on Friday night, people came. When I got there at 4 PM, there were already people waiting at the door. I provided soup and some veggies and juice. Our church had some goodies; cookies and brownies and rice crispy treats. The owner of the shop made lattes at the cafe side of the operation using some milk I had brought. We were busy for the first few hours. Some church folks stopped on by to share some stories and to share life.
You know, this really wasn’t hard to do. Laundry costs $6.50 from start to finish. It takes about an hour and half with the loading and folding at the end. But the folks who came were appreciative. And, while the washers and dryers hummed along, we had our own little community forming…at least for the night.
Said one couple, who were living in some local low-income housing and looking for work: “It may not seem like much, but it’s a lot to us.” They went away with clean clothes for the week and got a meal as well. And I went away having talked with them about their work situation and about some of Seward’s history and chatting about the news. I got to start a relationship. They were delightful.
After I had talked with the laundry owner, I saw that there is actually a national organization that is doing this kind of thing. It looks very cool. It’s called Laundry Love and their mission is very much what I was trying to accomplish. Their “About” section says the following:
Laundry Love seeks to bring economic relief by giving the individual or family the option to redirect funds toward food, medical, gas or transportation costs as well as school supplies and other basic, everyday necessities.
I thought about joining their program. But as last Friday approached I really didn’t know what to expect and feared that this would be a “one and done” event. Signing up seemed like more of a commitment than I was willing to make.
But, it’s not a “one and done.” We have another night planned. The church is excited and feels they made a difference. I was thrilled to get a chance to meet some wonderful and interesting people I might not have had the pleasure of meetings–including a laundry owner who is just as excited about what this could mean for people as I am. She has been nothing but gracious.
And, in the end, people were blessed. We are told in Scripture that we are “Blessed to be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). That’s what we did. And we were blessed in the process.
Thanks be to God.