A new laundry service turned into a lifesaver for Louise Frey.
Last month the hot water heater in her basement leaked and flooded the whole basement.
“I had all these sheets and towels that got wet,” she said. “All this was overwhelming me.”
On Jan. 25, Frey hauled those sheets and towels to the Highland Laundry Mat on Third Street.
There she ran into Laundry Love, a new program that provided free laundry services.
It was the first event.
“I needed to get a whole bunch washed at one time and they said they would be glad to help me,” Frey said.
Every third Thursday, Feb. 20 this month, from 6 to 8 p.m. up to five loads of laundry are free per family.
At the first Laundry Love event 58 loads were run through the Laundromat at 1307 N.W. Third Street. Included were the use of washers, dryers, detergent and fabric softeners. Pizza was also provided.
“It was great,” said Holly Walker, organizer of the event. “I was worried about two things. I was worried that nobody would show up and worried that too many would show up.”
“Sometimes you need the help,” Frey said. “They were so gracious about helping.”
She said sometimes the help isn’t about dollars.
“I didn’t need the quarters for the machines as badly as I needed the assistance,” she said.
She said the volunteers were a great help.
“I have never been treated nicer,” she said.
“We supply all of the quarters. We help them bring it from their car,” Walker said of the service.
She said there are a couple business partners. Walker said she estimated five loads of laundry cost between $10 and $20.
“People don’t realize how much it costs to do laundry,” she said. “The feedback that I have been given, even though it’s been just one event, has been so positive.”
Every 30 minutes, a new load goes into the washer.
“We will load up to 8 o’clock,” Walker said. “We thought five loads was a lot but just about every family that came brought five loads.”
The event is free to anyone with no restrictions.
“We didn’t want there to be any financial restrictions. I don’t want to know how much you make. Debbie Rivers (of Salina’s Laundry Love) said she had somebody come up to her in Salina and say, ‘Thank you for not making me prove how poor I am.’ I don’t want anyone to think they have to meet any type of financial guidelines,” Walker said.
Salina has been hosting a Laundry Love for six years.
Walker has been in Salina for the past 15 years and recently moved to her hometown of Abilene.
“I thought it was a great idea and a great thing that they were doing,” Walker said. “When I moved back to town I thought I wanted to do something.”
She moved back to Abilene in August after 20 years of being away.
“I really wanted to do something for the community,” she said. “I came back with a renewed respect for Abilene. I really wanted to do something to connect since I was coming back, making this my home.”
As a board member of Cedar House in Abilene, she asked Cedar House to be a partner.
“We’ve had a lot of national publicity lately. It was a way to give it validity,” she said. “A partnership with them would really help with this program.”
The Cedar House board was behind the program.
Walker discussed her plan to bring Laundry Love to Abilene with Rivers who operates Salina’s Laundry Love program.
“About 200 of them have Facebook pages and I followed all of the Facebook pages,” she said.
Programs in Manhattan and Oklahoma City were the most helpful.
“I wanted to be prepared when it started. I didn’t want to go in blindly,” she said.
Volunteers from Abilene help out with the program.
“So I wasn’t doing it all by myself,” she said. “A lot of good people have come on board and volunteered to be helpers at the events as well as donating.”
Walker said she sent out a request for laundry bags.
“So many families bring their laundry in trash bags,” she said. “We wanted to be able to give them something to put their clean laundry in that wasn’t a trash bag.
The Zion Brethren In Christ sewing group is making the bags.
Several hundred dollars worth of quarters were donated. All the money is in the Cedar House account. Walker said Greg Huston and Timberly Bowers, owners of the laundromat, donated some money.
The first event was advertised in pamphlets distributed by Neighbor to Neighbor and with Cedar House food pantry items.
Donations of laundry supplies or monetary donations can be made at Abilene Nutrition, 300 N. Cedar, and Benjamin F. Edwards, 102 N.W. Third Street. Abilene Nutrition is also offering Love Coffee for a donation to Abilene’s Laundry Love.
Walker said they would also like to expand Laundry Love to Herington.
Greg Russinger founded Laundry Love.
Russinger built a relationship with Eric who went by the name of T-Bone.
After many conversations and time spent, a question was asked of Eric, “How can we come alongside your life in a meaningful way?”
“If I had clean clothes people would treat me like a human being.”
Laundry Love was born.
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.