Laundry Love Hamilton is a monthly event where homeless and low income individuals and families can clean their clothes and bedding at no cost.
Laundry Love Hamilton provides the laundry detergent, fabric softener and quarters the second Thursday of each the month at Fast & Fluffy Laundromat in Hamilton for up to three loads.
Stefani Jackson said she started Laundry Love to give back dignity.
“We all fall on hard times,” she said. “It could be for a week, a month or if you have a sick child or you’re in college, it could last even longer. We don’t ask for any documentation. Confidentiality is important to us. Basically, if you need the service, come in.”
The first laundry event was in April where 15 loads of laundry were cleaned. Word got out and at the May event 83 loads of laundry were washed and dried.
Jackson said the numbers show that if kids have clean clothes attendance at school rises, test scores rise and bullying decreases.
“Having clean clothes cuts down on ER visits,” Jackson said. “Having clean clothes might mean the difference between a parent or individual getting a job or not getting a job. It is mainly the dignity, people don’t feel human if they don’t have clean clothes.”
Laundry Love started with a sign-in sheet but is getting rid of that step. It does not take names and does not ask for anyone to provide documentation.
“I’m not the judge of you. It is none of my business,” Jackson said. “There is only one judge and I’m not it, my volunteers are not it — you need the service, you come in. Period. Restoring dignity to those who have lost it is critical. Laundry Love Hamilton goes beyond washing laundry. It is about establishing relationships, offering a nonjudgmental atmosphere and compassion for our neighbors.”
For the Laundry Love event “guests” receive a washer pass, put their own laundry in the washers, then get laundry detergent and fabric softener from volunteers. The volunteers will place the quarters in the machine.
Jackson said many volunteers come from her church but “nothing is mentioned about Jesus.”
More volunteers are needed to fill in the gaps as current volunteers go on vacations.
Laundry Love Hamilton appreciates event sponsors: Evan’s Ace Hardware, Norco, Beck Builders Inc., Corvallis United Methodist Church Canyon View Church, G&L Lock & Key, Dr. Molly Gannon and Ron Ehli who donates the use of his Fast & Fluffy Laundromat.
“All of them believed in Laundry Love Hamilton before our first event and because of them we have been able to keep having the events and others have come on board and donated after seeing the success of our events,” Jackson said.
Additional business who have come on board are Town Pump and the Bombas sock company.
Town Pump just awarded Laundry Love a $250 grant.
“Our foundation’s mission is to help meet the basic needs and education of Montana citizens,” said Bill McGladdery, foundation director. “The work Stefani Jackson and her team are doing in Hamilton is truly inspirational.”
On Monday, the Bombas sock company donated 1,500 pairs of socks to Laundry Love Hamilton.
“They do the thing where if you buy one pair of socks, they donate one pair of socks,” Jackson said. “The socks they donate are special for the homeless. They make them anti-fungal and special for people who aren’t going to be able to wash their socks. They are really nice socks.”
Jackson is networking with local agencies that have resources and she hopes to work with additional organizations. She founded the nonprofit in April to have a supportive board of directors and be able to apply for grants.
Laundry Love is not a franchise but a national initiative that started in 2003 to come alongside people who are struggling financially to help them with their laundry. Registering a Laundry Love nonprofit gives organizers help to promote their nonprofit and helps people needing assistance find services.
“We see the laundromat as a place where strangers become friends, people are known by name, hope is hustled, and the worth of every human being is acknowledged and celebrated,” said Greg Russinger, co-founder and Board President of Laundry Love, on the laundrylove.org website.
The national initiative provides guidelines, helpful hints and coaching for folks willing to start a Laundry Love nonprofit.
Jackson said every Laundry Love is unique.
“There are 325 of them across the U.S. and the only thing we all have in common is paying for laundry for people,” she said. “Each founder has something different — maybe they only serve homeless, do laundry only for kids or only do laundry, not bedding. It is up to each founder.”
In Montana, Hamilton is now on the Laundry Love map as is Bozeman. The next closest is Couer d’Alene. There are none in Washington, but most other states have them.
“I lived in Oregon nine years ago with laundromats on every corner,” Jackson said. “In the Bitterroot we don’t have them on every corner.”
Laundry Love Hamilton has a Facebook page, a website and is spreading the word through fliers, posters and business cards that give all the details.
“We live in the Bitterroot, I could be one that uses my nonprofit,” Jackson said. “My passion is to help people. I’ve been there.”
Beyond doing laundry, Jackson is taking donations of anything that would help “guests” feel good.
“SAFE donated travel-size items and I’m working on getting haircuts for people,” she said.
Suggestions on items that could be donated to the basket for guests at each event include shampoo, conditioner, body soap, shaving cream, razors, deodorant, lotion, sunscreen, lip balm, protein bars, nuts, female hygiene products, canned tuna, crackers, fruit snacks, applesauce cup, peanut butter cups, Purell, mixed nuts, Kleenex, band aids, comb, bubbles, crayons, activity books, bottled water, toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers and gum.
Laundry Love Hamilton is held from 5 to 8 p.m. the second Thursday each month at Fast & Fluffy, 115 Pine St., Hamilton. There is a three-load limit but all laundry detergent, fabric softener and quarters will be supplied.
“My passion is to help people, I know what is like to live off SSDI,” Jackson said. “I’m fine but I’ve been there. It is special when there’s something in your heart and the community embraces it.”
Laundry Love Hamilton is made possible by donations, sponsorships, fundraisers and volunteers. For more information about donating, volunteering or how your organization can help, contact Laundry Love Hamilton by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 406-360-7763.