I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the laundromat initiative. It is really a wonderful opportunity to build community and to show hard-working families that we care about them.
This is our second year participating, and we enjoyed talking to the families and hearing their stories, their struggles, and the joy and gratitude they feel for such a wonderful and unexpected surprise.
In talking to one of the moms that I have met for the first time, I began reflecting on some of the most important cultural values in the Latino community. There is no question that family is one of our central values, and we get to see that even doing laundry is an all-family affair as much as it is going to church, grocery shopping or the doctor.
I also know that laundry is very expensive without mentioning the inconvenience of having to bring loads of dirty clothes either walking or driving a vehicle that doesn’t have air conditioning and having to bring the children along plus keeping a close eye on them while crossing the street or doing the laundry.
Having worked with vulnerable families for the past 19 years, I also know that there is a sense of pride in not having to ask for help and relying on the few resources families have. There is also the fear and shame to ask for help and being turned down or lectured about what they should be doing versus what they are doing.
Many people are ashamed to ask for help. They fear that sometimes they would be criticized for not speaking the language or not knowing how to fill out a form. Sometimes those of us who are in the helping professions are fatigued with the overwhelming needs and requests of so many, and our sense of compassion and respect fades away after time. We forget that when someone ventures to ask for help, it is because they are in real need, and they had to fight the conflictive dialogue in their heads of finally deciding to reach out to others, not because they want to take advantage of the system, but because they have no other way of providing for their families.
In contrast to all of the above, the laundromat project greets these families with smiling volunteers that open the doors, help them carry their laundry loads inside, surprise them paying for their laundry, offer them food, and their children spend time with gracious volunteers who read to them and get to know them. Families feel special, and when they leave the premises, they are relaxed, have clean clothes, books, food, and lots of hugs from others that they haven’t met before.
It is wonderful to see the joy in their faces and to hear their heartwarming words of gratitude. All this happens without them having to fill out a single form or having to explain their situation. It is an unexpected act of love and respect that lifts the families up and gives them a strong sense that people care about them and that they are important to our community.
On behalf of UnidosNow and all the families that don’t have a chance to write a note, I thank all of you! I know that there is a lot of work to set this project in motion. It is one of the greatest acts to treat people with dignity, respect, and love. They will forever remember what you did for them and most importantly how you made them feel.
With profound gratitude,