Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading transforms laundromat into a center of hope
Chelsea Brown has been coming to the SuperMatt along Sarasota’s North Trail since she was 7 years old.
She still considers it to be her neighborhood laundromat, though she lives a few miles north in Manatee County now and makes a weekly trek, usually on Sundays, to do her wash. On Aug. 18, however, her decision to do laundry on a Saturday paid off in a big way.
All her washing and drying was free.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading teamed up with Current Initiatives to offer free laundry for three hours at SuperMatt for its Pop-Up Neighbor Through Laundry event. This is the second time the Suncoast Campaign has partnered with Current Initiatives, a Tampa-based nonprofit that helps families around the country alleviate the cost of laundry and turn laundromats into “centers of hope” through its Laundry Project initiative.
“It is saving me a lot of money and takes some of the stress off the weekly household budget,” Brown said. “This is a huge help to the surrounding community, especially with school just starting and everyone making financial sacrifices to get their kids prepared for school.”
Dozens of volunteers gave out quarters, provided laundry supplies and helped fold clothes for patrons. The Suncoast Campaign set up a reading corner where volunteers read to children and gave away books.
There were also representatives from nonprofits such as Manatee County Rural Health and UnidosNow letting customers know about their services. All Faiths Food Bank handed out food and the Sarasota Library system signed patrons up for library cards.
For Beth Duda, executive director of the Suncoast Campaign, the event was about more than suds and a well-folded T-shirt. It was about helping children succeed in learning. She said engaging with families in their community is key to improving child literacy rates.
“Parents who are struggling the most financially don’t have the time to attend certain outreach events, so our goal is to go where families are and connect with them at that level,” Duda said. “A laundromat is a perfect place for us to meet families that we don’t normally reach, and we’re saving them $25 to $50 they would normally spend or more.”
The Suncoast Campaign has been able to connect with almost 100 families and completed 802 loads of laundry during the two Pop-Up Neighbor events the organization has held. Duda said they plan to host more events with the Laundry Initiative within the four counties that the Suncoast Campaign serves.
"One of the exciting things for me is the chance to get to meet our neighbors and to know that we are all in this together," Duda said.
Current Initiatives team leader Lester Patacsil said a lot of the customers were shocked by the free laundry event.
“I've seen some people come to tears because they were so overjoyed, and they've mentioned that this allows them to pay a bill or buy food for their families,” Patacsil said. “It brings a lot of happiness and that's one of the greatest rewards that we've seen.”