This past Saturday, United Way of Central Kansas launched “Laundry Love,” inviting families to bring their dirty clothes to Discount Laundry at 924 Jefferson St., where they could wash up to five loads free of charge.
“It went really well!” said Charell Owings, executive director of UWCK. “We served 20 families and did 88 loads of laundry. Many of them commented that they would be back next month.”
The mission of Laundry Love is to wash the clothes and bedding of low- or no-income families and individuals. There was free soap, fabric softener and drier sheets, as well as change for the washers and dryers.
Volunteers came from Communities Organizing to Promote Equity (COPE), ESSDACK, Core Community and the Kansas Children’s Service League. The groups were also able to make connections with those who came.
The goal is not just to provide funds to do laundry, Owings explained in a news release.
“We intend to expand it to have other resources out and available for those who may need it. Instead of those in need having to seek out assistance, we can bring those resources to them, taking one step out of a process that can be burdensome for many.”
COPE representative Vicki Richardson, with Kansas Children’s Service League and Pilot Club, saw the nationwide Laundry Love program in action in Salina more than two years ago and worked to bring it to Great Bend.
The story of Laundry Love began with T-Bone, a man living in Ventura, California. When asked, “T-Bone, how can we come alongside your life in a meaningful way?” his response was honest and practical.
“If I had clean clothes, people would treat me like a human being.”
Sponsors report that, on average, doing a load of laundry at home costs less than $1, including detergent. At a laundromat, it can cost about $4.25 to do that same load of laundry, not taking into account transportation costs and the time commitment. Multiply that price difference times a conservative average of six loads of laundry for a family per week, and homes without a washer and dryer will spend roughly $100 more a month to do laundry than a family that does have a washer and dryer.
Organizers said there are many reasons why they feel this program will have a positive impact:
• Unwashed clothes and bedding can threaten the health of children, elderly, immuno-compromised, or those without financial access to health care.
• Kids are notorious for teasing – and one of the reasons they will tease is if another student is wearing dirty clothes.
• There is an economic burden for someone who doesn’t have a washer/dryer hookup at home or simply can’t afford to purchase a set. By bringing this economic relief to individuals and families, that money can be redirected to food, gas, and medical expenses.
The first Laundry Love was sponsored by Moeder Plumbing, Heating, & Air. Additional sponsors and volunteers are needed going forward.
Each Laundry Love event will be on the third Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Discount Laundry, 924 Jefferson St. Any business interested in sponsoring a month or donating supplies is asked to contact United Way of Central Kansas. Volunteers can sign up at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050d4da5af2ea6f58-laundry.