“You have no idea what this means to me, to us. I can’t thank you enough. Instead of pushing us down or ignoring us, you are right here with us, lifting us up. It means a lot, A LOT.”
My new friend, Cecily (not her real name), stood by my side, pushing several baskets of dirty laundry into a supersized washing machine while I pushed 24 quarters into the coin slot. Cecily was referred to our Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry event by Mothers Helping Mothers. This all-volunteer, nonprofit organization provides necessities and baby items free of charge to families in Sarasota, Manatee, and surrounding counties.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, through the generosity of The Patterson Foundation, from time to time, takes over a laundromat for four hours, paying the laundry fees for anyone who comes in the door. These Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry events transform laundromats into joyful spaces where laughter, smiles, and connections are shared while hundreds of loads of wash spin from dirty to clean.
Our most recent pop-up gave ten students from Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy’s #StudyAway course a meaningful hands-on experience.
To ensure we had robust attendance at the event, we reached out to Mothers Helping Mothers and asked them to help us spread the word to families who could benefit from having their laundry fees covered.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading brought several shelves of books, and each family was encouraged to take a book or two home with them to build their home libraries.
Over and over, we heard how important this opportunity was to them. Most mothers shared that they rarely could afford to do all their laundry. Due to budget constraints, they had to pick and choose what items they had to wash for work or school and what would have to wait. Washing towels and sheets were considered a luxury. There were many smiles of happiness and relief as dozens of sheets and hundreds of towels came out of the dryers, sweet-smelling and clean.
In four hours, we helped 51 families complete 593 loads of wash. While some of us helped with laundry, others read to and fed the children while all of us created a caring space at the laundromat.