An in-depth look at Laundry Love
This month I wanted to highlight our latest mission work, in hopes to offer clarity for readers both near and far. After completing the Mission Assessment Program (MAP) as a church from late 2017 to early 2018 the exact facts and figures regarding poverty in St. Peter were shared with us. Not only was the rate of poverty surprisingly high to most of us on the committee but the number of multi-family households stood out to us as well. Our program sponsor from the diocese presented us with multiple ideas used by other parishes to match the skills of our church with the needs of our community. For me, the idea which resonated the most was Laundry Love.
Laundry Love started in 2003 in Ventura, California. A group of individuals were looking for a way to live out the liturgy. After speaking with a homeless man about what could make a real difference in his life, he responded “If I had clean clothes I think people would treat me like a human being.” From that conversation Laundry Love was born. The initiative consists of regular opportunities to come alongside people who are struggling financially by assisting them with their laundry. Groups and laundromats partner to aid in cleaning clothes and linens of low or no-income families/individuals. Laundry Love seeks to bring economic relief by giving the individual or family the option to redirect funds toward food, medical bills, gas or transportation costs as well as school supplies and other basic needs.
After being suggested the idea of Laundry Love by the diocese representative, Laundry Love St. Peter started with a conversation with Megan, the owner of St. Peter Laundry Co. Megan had the chance to discuss the details of starting Laundry Love at her site with another laundromat owner involved in Laundry Love and quickly warmed to the idea. We started by offering to cover the cost of all washes and dry’s for all who were present. After 3-4 sessions it was determined the demand may be higher than our budget and thus sensible restrictions had to be put in place. We now offer to cover washing and drying for any family or individual who is present but up to $15. We continue to offer soap and dryer sheets as well. It is not up to us to judge so there is no discrimination as to who gets our donation, anyone present is offered. We had the opportunity to partner with the pharmacy department at Mayo Clinic Health System Mankato and continue to look for other partners. It is our hope that Holy Communion sponsors ~8 sessions a year and our partners can cover the other four months.
Laundry Love struck a chord with me as it answers the universal question of “What can we do?” on the local level to impact poverty. It is also a simple way to build community as individuals with diverse backgrounds meet at a neutral space in hopes to erode the societal, economic, and cultural divides that separate people. The name of the project says it all, we are there spreading love. We are there walking in the ways of Jesus and offering anyone who walks through the door a “Modern day foot-washing.” We have been leading this local mission for ~8 months and the gratitude shown by the individuals/families receiving our sponsored loads has been immense. We have encountered language barriers and an ever evolving process but at the end of each session we walk away with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing we made a real difference.
I am also moved by the health and hygiene aspect of Laundry Love. Unwashed clothes and bedding can become home for parasites, bacteria, and viruses. There can also be an emotional strain which comes with unwashed clothing for children and youths. Teasing which occurs at elementary or junior high settings is heightened when a young person’s clothing emits an unpleasant odor. Laundry Love can play a role in preventing the physical and emotional strain which comes with poor health and hygiene.
After having to pick and choose dates over the last 8 months our now set date is the 2nd Wednesday of each month from 5:30pm-7:30pm. Our next session will be March 13th. We continue to fundraise in hopes of this being a long-term mission. More information can be found at laundrylove.org
Together we can be a healthier community.
God Bless – Joe Flynn, PharmD