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July 26, 2021

Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry: A fun day of learning in a most unexpected place!

Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

On a recent Saturday morning, the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County and the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) set up two bookcases of children’s books at the SuperMatt Laundromat in Arcadia, Florida. Simultaneously, our friends and partners from All Faith’s Food Bank and the DeSoto County Health Department set up information tables.

In partnership with The Laundry Project, volunteers and SCGLR Engagement Team members prepared for a Pop Up Neighbor Through Laundry event — a way of connecting to our communities and actively demonstrating caring for each other. Everyone coming through the doors from 10:00am – 1:00pm had their laundry fees covered thanks to the generosity of The Patterson Foundation.

The volunteers and Engagement Team members had a quick meeting to ensure everyone was ready to begin. “I wonder,” mused one of the volunteers, “If the children will be half as interested in these books as they are with playing with their parent’s cell phones?”

It turned out the children were VERY interested in the books in no small measure. They had the opportunity to select books for celebrity readers to read aloud, and each child took their favorite book to add to their home libraries.

Although the books and readers were more exciting to the children than playing on their parent’s cell phones, the DeSoto County Fire Department provided the most interesting moments of the day. The Fire Chief, Timothy Alley, and many department members brought two fire trucks to the laundromat and gave the children some fire equipment and fire safety lessons.

In total, SCGLR and The Laundry Project helped out 44 families by doing 498 loads of laundry, and the children experienced a fun day of learning in a most unexpected place.

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