by Anja Wuolu
A full laundry basket sits by the closet. Fingers cautiously count out quarters. Will everything fit in one load? It had better fit: there’s only enough detergent for one more load. For many families, affording laundry can be difficult. As of Oct. 18, “Laundry Love” can help. On the first and third Tuesdays of each month, from 5 to 8 p.m., people in St. Joseph can do their laundry for free at the Coin Laundromat.
Laundry Love is a national initiative which began in 2003 with the idea to ensure everyone is able to have clean laundry by distributing free quarters and detergent. Today, millions of families all around the United States use the assistance provided by various Laundry Love initiatives. Earth Breeze, an eco-friendly detergent, provides discounted products to all Laundry Love initiatives.
Molly Weyrens from the Central Minnesota Catholic Worker first noticed a Laundry Love event happening at Kipp’s Laundry in St. Cloud. She discovered there were also ones in Princeton and Zimmerman as well.
“Why isn’t there one in St. Joseph?” she wondered. “The need is definitely there.”
Weyrens connected with St. John’s Campus ministry and Laundry Love in order to fund and staff the project. When she spoke to Mike Deutz, owner of Coin Laundromat, he had never heard of Laundry Love. Deutz said it is too early to gage the success of the initiative. The families using Laundry Love so far are mostly people who regularly washed their clothes at Coin Laundromat and who just happened to learn about Laundry Love when they entered the building. Deutz said he hopes with time the initiative will bring in more customers and help more people do their laundry.
There are no specific rules about who can do laundry, although the program is intended for people who are financially struggling and live in St. Joseph. Quarters and Earth Breeze detergent are handed out on a first-come first-served basis. An individual may wash two loads of laundry. A family may wash up to four.
“I’m just the volunteer,” said Derek Pass, a St. John’s University student, during the Nov. 1 session. “I give out quarters and laundry soap. Sometimes, like last time, I entertain the kids.”
Pass enjoys interacting with people in St. Joseph. He is part of a long tradition of building social relationships through altruistic endeavors.
New York’s Catholic Worker Movement began in the 1930s with Dorothy Day’s soup kitchen and its newspaper The Catholic Worker. Day and others worked to bring people together during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Her band of activists expanded throughout her life. They still make a powerful impact today. According to the website, the Catholic Worker boasts 187 groups around the world, including the local Central Minnesota Catholic Worker.
That agency helps families in St. Joseph in a variety of ways. Although they do not have an actual building site, they function as “a Catholic worker without walls.” They work with Kennedy Community School to identify families who need furniture or housing assistance. They work with families who have struggled with homelessness. They’ve organized events such as “JoeTown Table,” providing community meals and they host “Stations of the Grove,” a spiritual gathering. All projects center around prayer, clarification of thought and – most of all – hospitality.
Laundry Love in St. Joseph is still growing. On the first evening Oct. 18, the event gave one family quarters and detergent for laundry. On the second evening, Laundry Love helped six families. Weyrens said she hopes to grow to eight or 10 participants/groups per night. If there is a need, Weyrens said she may organize more days. She also said she hopes to inspire other cities such as Avon and Albany to adopt this program.
“If people have neighbors who need it, they can spread the word,” she said. “Everybody needs to do their laundry. It’s one of those great equalizers.”
There has been a little bit of a language barrier in spreading the word about the program. Currently, all promotional materials have been in English. However, Weyrens said she recognizes it does not reach everyone. She plans to work with Cultural Bridges of St. Joseph to better connect with the Somali community. She also said she hopes to have materials translated into Spanish in order to better serve the Hispanic population.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to St. Joseph’s Laundry Love can email email@example.com or call 320-316-3290. Checks written out to the Central Minnesota Catholic Worker are also acceptable and may be sent to P.O. Box 94, St. Joseph 56374.