Editor’s Note: Special thanks to the Pop Up Neighbor Through Laundry team:
- Beth Duda
- Carolina Franco
- Melissa Hirstein
- Renee Isrel
- Cinthia Pena
- Aileen Peña
- Sandra Vega-Picchietti
- Kelli Karen Smith, Coordinator
- Marla Smith
- Elias Verzini
- Karen Windon
An initiative of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR), Pop-Up Neighbor Though Laundry provides opportunities for SCGLR team members to “turn outward” to meet the immediate needs of children and families in our four-county region.
Many families dread going to the laundromat due to transportation issues, time, and cost. According to the website FiscalTiger, based on an average of eight loads of laundry per week, the average monthly price to do laundry is $166.72. Now, imagine a family with an infant, multiple children who play sports, or adults with jobs that quickly soil uniforms; the amount of laundry they generate in a week and the weekly cost of doing laundry jumps significantly. Think of how that family might have to decide not to wash sheets, towels, or some articles of clothing because they simply can’t afford the laundry fees.
SCGLR has partnered with The Laundry Project to assist asset-limited families with meeting this basic need – washing clothes and linens, by turning laundromats into community centers of hope. For several hours on a Saturday, at an event we call Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry, laundry fees are paid through the generosity of The Patterson Foundation, while the SCGLR Engagement Team and volunteers assist with laundry services, read aloud to children at a book nook, help the children select books to take home, and create a caring space at the laundromat with community partners.
On Saturday, November 18, 2023, SCGLR held its 32nd Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry event in the Suncoast Region at SuperMatt Laundromat in Arcadia, FL. Ninety families did 917 loads of wash for free, bringing the total number of families served to 1,477 and the total loads of wash accomplished at these events to 15,422.
Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry events have proven to be an effective way to reach struggling families while at the same time strengthening relationships with community partner organizations. At events, not only are families surprised by the unexpected gift of having their laundry fees covered, but they are also treated to:
- fresh produce provided by All Faiths Food Bank
- new, high-quality children’s books provided by the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County and SCGLR
- valuable information about parenting during the first three years of life and free baby wipes from First 1,000 Days Suncoast
- a wealth of information about available community resources from United Way Suncoast
- information about UnidosNow, an organization that elevates the quality of life of the growing Hispanic/Latino community
- information about the Affordable Connectivity Program, a Federal Communications Commission low-cost internet/broadband expansion program formerly known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit. This program provides a $30 reduction in internet services with participating Internet Service Providers, access to low-cost or free devices, and skills training based on various client eligibility areas such as SNAP, SSI, Free and Reduced Lunch Program, and households at 200% or below the federal poverty level guidelines provided by Digital Access for All.
- health and wellness information from MCR Health
Struggling families enter the parking lot of their local laundromat with feelings of dread, which quickly change to feelings of hope and joy when they discover a Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry event taking place. Smiles, relief, laughter, and many phone calls sharing the news of the event with friends and family members quickly fill the laundromat with feelings of friendship and, yes, hope.