By: By Christa Meland
For Hutchinson residents in need, coming up with money for laundry is one less thing to worry about thanks to a new ministry organized by members of Vineyard United Methodist Church.
Last month, members of the congregation spent part of a day at a local laundromat providing detergent, dryer sheets, quarters, and homemade cookies to those who came in to wash their clothing.
For some time, the church had been searching for a ministry that would meet a need in its community—where there’s a fair amount of homelessness and where a substantial percentage of children are on free or reduced lunches. When Rev. Deb Walkes learned about Laundry Love, an Oregon-based nonprofit that has hundreds of programs registered nationwide, she thought it might be the perfect program for Vineyard UMC to start in Hutchinson. Other church leaders and members agreed.
“Having clean clothes does so much for people’s feelings of self-esteem,” said Walkes. “We especially thought of children who could be teased and ostracized because their clothes smell and it sets them apart.”
This year’s Lenten and Easter offerings were for Laundry Love, and church leaders learned from the Laundry Love nonprofit how to best go about starting the ministry locally. The church has committed to offering laundry assistance once a month for at least a year and expects that word of mouth will help grow the ministry in its first few months.
On the third Tuesday in April, a group of Vineyard UMC members hosted their first two Laundry Love sessions—one over a three-hour period in the morning and another during a three-hour block in the evening. Many residents took them up on their offer to help with laundry and expressed sincere gratitude for the ministry; in fact, volunteers almost ran out of quarters during the evening shift. Others said they didn’t need help but knew people who did and vowed to spread the word. One woman who didn’t need assistance herself wanted to help the ministry and donated $20.
“Those who worked the shifts got to see the joy and relief of those who came to do laundry because we were there,” said Walkes. “Our hope is to form community and relationships with the people we are serving and share God’s love with them one load at a time. The best thing is we are ‘out there’ showing God’s love to people where they are and not expecting them to come to us.”
Vineyard’s volunteers handed out business cards to attendees to encourage them to share the opportunity with others and let them know about the next Laundry Love days. A local food shelf and an ecumenical ministry helps the homeless both agreed to let those they serve know about the ministry.
The laundromat owner and staff have also been helpful in helping the ministry get off the ground. They provided suggestions about how to maximize the amount of clothes washed and dried for the coins required, and they agreed to provide laundry assistance for those who come in during the hours when the Vineyard UMC team isn’t present on Laundry Love days.
Word of the new ministry is spreading throughout Hutchinson and other nearby towns. “Have you heard what the Methodists at Vineyard are doing?” people have asked. After learning about the ministry, a group in Glencoe decided to start it there too.
But for Vineyard UMC, it’s not about recognition. It’s about sharing God’s love with people in the community.
“We hope they experience the love of Christ in a tangible way,” said Walkes.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church