Recently, I participated in my first Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry event while enrolled in The Patterson Foundation’s (TPF) Study Away course. This course is a weeklong opportunity for experiential learning in partnership with the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy through the Advancing Philanthropic Leadership initiative. The pop-up laundry day was an event that stuck with me in a week full of so many unique activities.
Throughout the few hours my classmates and I spent in the laundromat on a rainy Wednesday morning, there were many opportunities to engage with the people who walked through the door. Whether we spent the time walking around with our masking tape and markers learning people’s names, connecting them with resources and organizations that had tables set up, helping to keep track of their wash, or sitting on child-sized wooden blocks helping children pick out their new favorite book, there were so many chances to listen, connect, and laugh with community members.
Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry is an approach to connecting with people unlike anything I have ever experienced, and the opportunities to speak to and engage with community members are unforgettable. Now, as a TPF Fellow, I returned to the same laundromat for my first Pop-Up Neighbor event since moving to Sarasota. While I knew what to expect this time, the magic was still the same. There were new people to chat with as I went around noting down names and unraveling rolls of quarters, and there were new books and new faces to enjoy those stories.
On a ninety-five-degree Saturday morning, the laundromat may not seem the most likely place to foster connections, but that is far from the truth. It is a hub where people can come together to complete a simple but necessary chore, and Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry ensures that people leave with more than when they arrived.
For some, that may be with the gift of free laundry. For another, it might be access to resources about wireless connectivity. For a child, that might be the book they got for themselves and the extra they grabbed for a friend; and for the older gentleman that came in alone, it might have been with the gift of a listening ear and conversation.
The laundromat is rife with opportunities to connect, turn outward, and listen, and I am grateful to be a small part of this amazing project.