'Laundry Love' ministry is bringing fresh connections — and sheets — to the East Bay

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 1/24/20

Nobody loves laundry.For one, it's never done. You wash it, dry it, fold it, and put it away, and then you turn your back for a moment and the next thing you know, the massive heap of dirty laundry …

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'Laundry Love' ministry is bringing fresh connections — and sheets — to the East Bay


Nobody loves laundry.

For one, it's never done. You wash it, dry it, fold it, and put it away, and then you turn your back for a moment and the next thing you know, the massive heap of dirty laundry has regenerated itself.

But now imagine you have to contend with that pile without the benefit of, not only functioning appliances, but the resources to utilize a local laundromat.

When we think about the needs of people living on low incomes, we think of donations of food, and clothes. But how many of us have considered the importance of maintaining those clothes?

Enter Laundry Love, a ministry that began over a decade ago when two outreach volunteers in Ventura, California asked a homeless man named T-Bone what they could do that would be most helpful to him. His answer? Clean clothes.

"I'd be more respected if I didn't stink," he told them.

So a movement was born. Laundry Love partners with groups, schools and local laundromats to wash the clothes and bedding of low-income and no-income families and individuals. There are now more than 500 Laundry Love ministries across the country, including East Bay Episcopal Laundry Love, comprised of volunteers from St. Michael's Church in Bristol and St. John's Church in Barrington. East Bay Episcopal Laundry Love is, to their knowledge, the only Laundry Love ministry in Rhode Island. They operate on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, between 5:30 and 7 p.m., at the Launder 'n Luxury at 139 Main St., Warren, on RIPTA route 60.

Tinka Perry, a Bristol resident and parishioner of St. Michaels Church, first heard of Laundry Love about 6 years ago at an Episcopal conference, and she then joined a Laundry Love ministry near her former Massachusetts home. When Canon Michael Horvath took the helm of St. Michael's Church about a year ago, she mentioned the ministry to him.

As it turns out, he had been involved with a Laundry Love ministry at his former parish in Texas. Canon Horvath was enthusiastic, and reached out to St. John's parish to see if they wanted to team up. Now the ministry is close to a half a year old.

The premise is simple. "There are 5-6 of us, and between 5:30 and 7 p.m. we greet our guests, put the quarters into the machines as our guests put their laundry in, we add the detergent or dryer sheets, and then have fellowship with them," said Ms. Perry. "We talk about whatever they want to talk about...some want to share their story about why they need help, others just want to talk about the neighborhood.

"It's so simple, yet so important."

To be clear, Laundry Love is an movement, not a service….guests are expected to do their own laundry, and volunteers are not expected to handle other people's dirty unmentionables. They are Laundry Love, not laundry lovers.

Despite the sponsoring organizations and the "ministry" moniker, another thing the Laundry Love volunteers do not do is preach. "We won’t ask you to come to church!" said Ms. Perry. "We are just here to help."

"I used to volunteer with the homeless population in Boston," she said. "A lot of us don't realize, you may be one paycheck away from that. And it's not just an inner city need. Everyone wants to sleep on clean sheets, and send their children to school in clean clothes."
East Bay Episcopal Laundry Love takes donations of detergent pods and dryer sheets, as well as cash donations. They are also supported by grants from the Episcopal Diocese, whose Bishop Nicholas Knisely would love to see Laundry Love spread to other communities.
Co-coordinating the effort through St. Michael's Church is fellow parishioner and Bristol resident Sandra Jones, who heard of Laundry Love through Ms. Perry. "She told me about it, and it was like a light switched on," said Ms. Jones. "It's such a simple and easy ministry.
"Two things happen. You are helping people, but they are helping you. Getting involved in something, outside of you — you become more human."

"If I had to use one word to describe it, it would be 'dignity'," said Ms. Perry. Ms. Jones agreed. "You're just talking to people, and letting them know you care."

Both Ms. Perry and Ms. Jones give a tremendous amount of credit to their partners in the St. John's congregation. "They are amazing," Ms. Jones said. "And they have wonderful ideas. It's a fantastic co-ministry."

Want to get involved? Contact Tinka Perry at tinkapb@aol.com.

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