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May 29, 2024

Building Community, One Laundry Load at a Time

Andrea Hult, Indiana University Indianapolis Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Editor’s Note: The Indiana University Indianapolis Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Patterson Foundation partnered on “TPF Immersive Impact: Through Engagement and Consulting,” a special topics course for the school’s students during the spring 2024 semester. The course connects students to The Patterson Foundation’s innovative approach to philanthropy and nonprofits in the region engaged in the Foundation’s initiatives.


A few weeks back, I joined a Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry event in Sarasota, Florida, with The Patterson Foundation and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Study Away course. During this opportunity, we fostered community in an unexpected environment. This experience stayed with me amidst our busy schedule in Sarasota.

The Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry event occurs quarterly at SuperMatt Laundromat/Lavandería locations. You might think hosting a pop-up laundry includes a few quarters and some soap, but during this experience, some of my classmates and I roamed around learning the names of individuals doing their laundry and writing them on masking tape to keep the laundry separated. Others were responsible for loading quarters into the machines, while some managed snacks. Additionally, bookshelves were set up, provided by the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR), allowing children to read while waiting for their parents for their laundry. The kids could also take a book with them once they were ready to go.

On a bright Wednesday morning at SuperMatt Laundromat, I had the opportunity to converse with individuals doing their laundry and got to learn more about them and their stories. Among them, one person graciously shared their thoughts on the Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry event, expressing gratitude for its existence due to the high costs associated with laundromats. They explained how they have a washer and dryer at home, but it doesn’t work well, so they have to rely on doing most of their laundry at the laundromat. This was just one of the many stories we heard that day.

At the Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry event, we assisted 35 families in completing 434 loads of laundry. However, our impact extends far beyond the confines of that single day. Over the years, since 2018, SCGLR has been a steadfast host, organizing a total of 32 Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry events. These events have impacted 1,477 families, and 15,422 loads of laundry have been completed. Numbers continue to rise! Each load washed represents a chore completed and a tangible demonstration of the commitment to uplifting and empowering these communities.

Philanthropy is more than just a task; it’s a dedication to fostering connections and extending care to others. In our recent experience, each of us became flexible, stepping in wherever was needed. This sense of purpose and unity overflowed into the remainder of our week. Fueled by our shared passion for making a positive impact, we approached our agenda with the same amount of enthusiasm and commitment, ensuring that the essence of philanthropy remained as a core piece of our reason for why we were there.

Events like this, organized by initiatives through The Patterson Foundation, serve as powerful reminders that opportunities are available in various settings, whether it be your neighborhood laundromat, a local radio station, or online platforms. The key lies in our willingness to remain receptive to these opportunities, as they provide avenues for connection, learning, sharing, evolution, and strengthening. By embracing the possibilities presented in diverse spaces, we can foster stronger communities.


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