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July 16, 2018

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Part I

The word, neighbor, resonated in a new way for about 100 people in Manatee County on Saturday, July 14. The first Pop-Up Neighbor event, sponsored by the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) and The Patterson Foundation, was held at the SuperMatt Laundromat/Lavandería in Bradenton, Florida. Customers who walked into SuperMatt on Tamiami Trail between the hours of 10 AM and 1 PM, got their laundry fees paid.

Thirty Volunteers, SCGLR Engagement Team Members, Jason Sowell of The Laundry Project, and over forty very surprised families shared a joyous three-hour experience accompanied by the gentle swish and whirl of the washers and dryers.

#PopUpNeighbor events are unexpected opportunities where caring volunteers make real connections with individuals and families while alleviating the cost of a basic need, in this case, laundry.  SCGLR partnered with The Laundry Project for this Pop-Up Neighbor event.  The Laundry Project has a long history of providing free laundry days for low-income families.  They pride themselves for turning laundromats into community centers of hope.

Jason Sowell brought The Laundry Project’s expertise in how the free laundry day would run, and SCGLR added a special spin on the day.  (Yes, I did use spin on purpose!)  SCGLR worked with community partners to make the experience extra special. The Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County provided books for the children, the Food Bank of Manatee County provided food sacks and fresh produce for all the laundromat patrons, the Manatee County Library System was there with information on how to get a library card, Manatee County Rural Health Services provided information on health resources, Volunteer Readers kept the book nook alive sharing books and stories, and UnidosNow provided information on college and career readiness and other programs to support and empower Latinos to achieve their American dreams. The Patterson Foundation provided breakfast and lunch, and the volunteers and laundromat patrons provided bundles of goodwill, baskets full of smiles, and a sense of community that will last far longer than fresh-scent of the dryer sheets.

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