Sounds of quarters jingled and washing machines and dryers buzzed, filling Doe’s Laundromat on Oct. 23, as part of their monthly Laundry Love initiative.
Immanuel Baptist Church and the Salvation Army of El Dorado have been teaming up to provide Laundry Love in El Dorado for almost seven years.
Volunteers from Immanuel Baptist Church come together to provide quarters and the manpower to wash clothes for families on the fourth Tuesday of every month, excluding November and December due to the holidays.
Soap is provided by the Salvation Army, which gets it from donations through Walmart.
Laundry Love is a national movement that began in 2003 in Ventura, California. It is a neighboring movement that partners with groups, schools and local laundromats to wash the clothes and bedding of low income and/or no income families and individuals.
“The Laundry Love initiative consists of regular opportunities to come alongside people who are struggling financially by assisting them with their laundry,” their website states. “We see the laundromat as a place where strangers become friends, people are known by name, hope is hustled and the worth of every human being is acknowledged and celebrated.”
According to their website, Laundry Love has over 30,000 laundromats involved nationwide. Through Laundry Love, over 1.2 million loads of laundry have been done with over 850,000 people cared for through the initiative.
Laundry Love came to El Dorado in January 2012 after a formerly homeless man visited Immanuel Baptist Church.
During the man’s visit to the church, he was asked what is the most important thing homeless people are in need of? He replied, “They need clean laundry. They have no way to clean and dry their clothes.”
Melanie Elkins, a volunteer with Immanuel Baptist Church, said Doe’s Laundromat was chosen because of its proximity to the Salvation Army.
Elkins passes out food every month to people getting their laundry done. She said they provide a one-dish meal and drinks every month.
“If you’re going to be sitting here and waiting on your clothes, it’s just nice to have something to eat and drink while you’re doing it,” she said. “It’s more of a party atmosphere.”
Andy Moore, also a volunteer with Immanuel, said they provide laundry for about 30 families a month. Each family receives three loads of free laundry.
“There’s always new families that come in and there’s always some of our regulars, so it kind of balances out,” Moore said.
Elkins said they spend about $300 a month in quarters during Laundry Love.
Moore added that someone usually gets up in the middle of the event and tells the people about Jesus.
“There’s not strings,” she said. “It was probably a year or so before we even mentioned Jesus because you had to build relationships first, because everybody was a little suspicious.”
Elkins said at one Laundry Love night, a lady walked in and she could tell the lady didn’t want to be there.
“She walked over to me and says, ‘what do you have to do to do this?’ I said we don’t require anything,” Elkins said. “And she said, ‘I didn’t want to come here, but my daughter is in middle school and she said kids were making fun of her because she smelled bad.’”
Elkins added, “So you know, it doesn’t take many of these to make it worth while.”
When people come in to have their laundry washed, they sign in on a sheet of paper in case there is a waiting list. To keep up with everyone’s clothes, they use sticky notes with names written on them that they attach to the machines being used.
“Some of the people literally can’t do their own clothes,” Elkins said. “The volunteers wash them and fold them and take them to their car.”
“It’s a lot of work and it’s expensive. … This is not a luxury ministry we’re offering, it’s just end of the month, people are hungry and people have dirty clothes.”
Elkins said there wasn’t as many people at the laundromat as usual at the October event because it was a five-Tuesday month.
“We usually have a waiting list,” Elkins said. “The only thing that may keep it from being that busy tonight is we do it on the fourth Tuesday. This is a five-Tuesday month. Most people think it’s the last Tuesday of every month.”
Elkins added that they sometimes give gifts to people when they are leaving after their laundry is finished.
“Last year, our church took up towels and everybody probably got a dozen towels,” she said. “Just in general, most people are very appreciative.”
Immanuel Baptist Church is always raising money for Laundry Love; anyone wishing to donate can visit their website at ibceldorado.com - there’s an option to donate to Laundry Love in the Ministries tab.
Laundry love begins every fourth Tuesday of the month (excluding November and December) at Doe’s Laundromat, 815 E. Hillsboro, at 5:30 p.m.
For more information on the nationwide initiative, visit laundrylove.org.
Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 870-862-6611.