Chicago Ideas Collaborates with Laundry Project to Bring Free Laundry to Englewood

Chicago Ideas collaborated with the Laundry Project to bring free laundry to Wash and Relax Laundry in Englewood this Saturday, July 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The community outreach event resulted in 508 free loads of laundry for 42 families.
The Tampa-based Laundry Project helps low-income families meet the basic need of clean clothes through similar pop-up laundry events in Florida and Ohio.  The Englewood event marked the first in Chicago for the organization.

Laundry Project and Chicago Ideas volunteers helped
Wash and Relax customers with their laundry.
“Hopefully, these customers will walk away with a newfound sense of humanity,” Laundry Project Founder Jason Sowell, who oversaw the event, said. “Hopefully, when the leave, they can walk out and know there are some great people in the world who will help with no strings attached.”
The atmosphere at the laundromat was festive, as laudromat patrons called friends, families and neighbors to alert them to the opportunity to wash and dry their laundry for free.  The children in attendance colored, played games and blew bubbles with laundromat staff and Laundry Project volunteers.
“I see a lot of smiles, a lot of people with good attitudes.  It’s a beautiful thing,” Wash and Relax manager Andre Jones, Jr. 

Jones said, adding that Saturday’s event demonstrated the “heart” at the center of the Englewood community.

“Englewood is teaming up to get our community back for the sake of our kids,” laundry patron Shalonda Hickman—who hadn’t known her loads of laundry would be free when she walked into the Wash and Relax Saturday—reflected.
The event required help from a range of organizations in the Chicagoland area.  The River North–based Raise donated $500 worth of quarters and select laundry supplies.  CIW Co-op Member Andee Harris donated the bulk of the detergent used.  After posting a request for donations on her Facebook page, Harris reported that for two weeks she returned home to detergent—often anonymously donated—on her front steps.

“There are so many good people out there wanting to make a change,” Harris said of the experience.  “It was a nice message about our community, and we really do have a strong community in Chicago that wants to help each other.”

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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