LIHUE — More than 35 people showed up at Kapaa Laundromat last Wednesday to have their laundry washed, dried and folded — for free.
June 17 was the soft launch of a new community outreach program made possible through a partnership between All Saints’ Episcopal Church and Kapaa Laundromat in the Kapaa Shopping Center. It’s called “Laundry Love,” a program aimed at providing as many residents as possible with free laundry service from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of every month.
Laundry Love is a national movement predicated on the principal that people living in poverty deserve the simple dignity of clean clothes and bedding. The idea for Laundry Love began at an Episcopal Church in Ventura, California. Today hundreds of churches, synagogues, mosques and civic organizations around the country have partnered with local laundromats to adopt the program.
The Kapaa program is the first of its kind in the state.
“Laundry Love is a gateway ministry, meaning it’s going to allow us to connect with the community, get to know their stories,” Rev. Ryan Newman said. “There’s a lot of downtime in Laundry Love. You’re doing laundry but in between you’re just talking story, and I hope over time we will get to know families and find new ways to help.”
At the soft launch of the Kauai’s first Laundry Love program, 55 loads of laundry were washed, dried and folded by 21 volunteers, Newman said.
Newman said he hopes volunteers will be able to launder as many as 80 loads at the second Laundry Love event on July 1.
“It’s not a religious outreach per se,” Newman said. “We’re there to serve. We’re trying to live by example. We welcome anyone.”
There are no eligibility requirements to participate in the Laundry Love program, Newman said. The target client is any resident who might have trouble affording the $7 it costs to wash and dry a load.
“We might think $20 for laundry is no big deal, but for some people that might be the difference between having food for the week and doing laundry,” Newman said. “And if you had to choose, most people would choose food. We want to make it so that people don’t have to make that choice.”
All Saints’ outreach budget, private donations and grant funding provide the resources to offer free loads of laundry, detergent and dryer sheets.