Split the Plate is one of UUCW’s programs of outreach and generosity. Each month we give half of all undesignated offering monies to a non-profit organization as a way to help us live our Unitarian Universalist values and serve our community.
For January our Split the Plate partner organization is Laundry Love MKE, which began as a small mission to just provide the dignity of clean clothes and has grown into a caring community full of friends and fellowship. Laundry Love is a collaborative project that brings together a laundromat at 801 E. Capitol Dr. in Milwaukee, the Ladies of Charity from the Milwaukee Archdiocese, and representatives of several other local area churches.
The idea for Laundry Love was born 14 years ago when a homeless man living in Ventura, Calif., was asked what he needed. “If I had clean clothes,” he said, “I think people would treat me like a human being.” Laundry Love sites — laundromats that periodically provide free use of their machines to those in need — are opening all over the country. The Milwaukee Laundry Love is held at the “Your Laundry” laundromat on the third Monday of every month between 9 am and noon. The last load of wash must get underway by 10:30 am. The machines are free at that time and volunteers help people stuff loads of dirty clothes into washers or plop wet ones into dryers. Free cookies and other refreshments are available, and children are welcome to play. The project is funded entirely by donations and volunteer labor.
The benefit to participants goes far beyond the value of having clean clothes and linens. They are always greeted with smiles, hugs, and questions about how they and their families are doing. On one recent day, when it was cold and forbidding outside, inside the laundromat it was warm and welcoming, and children were dashing all around. Off to one side, sitting on a bright yellow stool, was Georgia Tyson. Tyson said she became homeless at the end of an abusive relationship. She has an apartment now, but she hates to leave it. People frighten her, she said. “I’ve been through a lot,” she said. “I had to take two of my antidepressants just so I could be here. Just to be out.” But there she was: Out. “This,” she said, “is awesome.”