By Sister Regina Siegfried, ASC
While most of us take for granted the convenience of a washer and dryer, it’s actually a luxury inaccessible to many of our brothers and sisters.
A dozen years ago, a movement called Laundry Love started when a homeless man in Ventura, Calif., said having clean clothes would help people see him as a human being.
Since then, communities, schools, churches and other groups have been lifting people’s dignity by helping them get their clothes cleaned at partner laundromats. Even the pope sponsors a laundry for needy people in Rome.
St. Vincent de Paul Church, my home parish in St. Louis, recently launched its own take on this national ministry. Our parish already does a lot of outreach to low-income folks, formerly incarcerated women and homeless people. We have a food pantry and serve meals regularly. Now, we’re providing some of those friends and guests the opportunity to wash their clothes free of charge at a neighborhood laundromat.
Spearheaded by parishioner Tom McCrackin and an enthusiastic planning committee, this group of parishioners met several times to organize Laundry Love, St. Vincent’s style.
The committee visited churches that sponsor similar programs, learned their best practices, and met with the owner of the laundromat several times to work out the details of our new parish venture.
Empty Tide boxes placed in front of the altar of our church invite all parish members to contribute their quarters to this new ministry.
The Adorers of the Blood of Christ contributed a generous donation to help sustain the ministry, and employees at the Adorers’ mission center in St. Louis are helping fill a jar by the coffee maker with even more quarters.
So it was with a discernable amount of excitement that we met at the parish to collect laundry detergent, dryer sheets, rolls of quarters, a sewing basket, and other necessities for the short drive to the laundromat.
We arrived 20 minutes early, but several of our meals guests had gotten there ahead of us, eager to use the washers and dryers.
Volunteers signed in, paired up with quarters and Tide pods, and got to work feeding the machines, putting in the detergent, and chatting with our guests.
Many of us already know the people who crowded the doorway that day. It was wonderful to talk to them in another context and place. They are still the people we’ve come to know and love as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Over the next hour or so, washers sloshed, driers tumbled, conversation flowed, and grace abounded.
The people who exited with clean laundry expressed their gratitude and offered their blessings to the volunteers.
The gospel doesn’t have a beatitude that says “Blessed are those who help others wash their clothes,” but this is gospel work, a work of mercy done with loads of love.
For more information, go to: laundrylove.org/