2nd Wednesdays at 7pm Beach Coin Laundry 19072 Beach Bl (x Garfield) Huntington Beach

Laundry With A Side of Biryani. And a Dream.

November Laundrylove felt a bit like a festival. All kinds of people. Laundry guests. Volunteers. Social Workers. Twelve Step Program visitors. Musicians. Church people. Mosque people. Yoga people.

Nayyer, Ahmed, a whole group of kind and generous men from the Islamic Center of Orange County showed up with a delicious meal of rice and biryani (Lucknow style): and fruit and breads. Can I brag that Laundrylove HB doesn't order pizza or fried chicken, we eat real meals. It's 'first fruit' food, not leftovers or fast food.

I realized at some point during the evening that I spent almost the entire first 3 hours outside with our homeless and community guests, talking about mathematics, medical care, sleeping between dumpsters, the history of the Navajo people, spicy food, music, and on and on. Thanks to the wonderful volunteers that now show up at Laundrylove, I actually haven't stuffed quarters into washers or dryers for a few months, except when the volunteers dwindle and I return to take their place.
As Shannon likes to say, I'm the goodwill ambassador. I guess so. I just am comfortable now having long conversations with our community about their lives. Or what their lives used to be like. I just listen.
Christian and I always stay till the end, when Gabby and her family arrive to finish cleaning up. We wait until the last guest has folded and packed up. It's actually a good time to catch up with them, because we can focus on them, help them fold or carry laundry to their car or bike, and then finish up with Gabby by taking out the trash, or sweeping up the dog-ends in the alley.

Shannon, who works harder than anyone (at least I say so), is usually exhausted by the time the lights go out, and she and Damian head home.

I worry about El Nino. Those who sleep on the street, or in leaky cars and RVs, will not be comfortable this winter. I know these men and women, I know how uncomfortable they will be.
I dream of the ability to find temporary housing for our guests this winter. It's not like we don't know the character of our long term guests. We have known some of them for over 4 years.

Ted (not his real name) has just had surgery on his detached biceps. He tells us of his surgery, and then his recovery in a motel, provided by Illumination Foundation, for two weeks. As he speaks, a wave of gratefulness comes over me for all that I have.
Instead of finding his place between two dumpsters:
He was able to lock his door for two weeks.
He could take a shower every day.
He had clean sheets.
There were problems with the electrical circuits, a microwave and air conditioner on the same circuit, so, with the permission of the owner, he fixed that.
He cleaned the bathtub of a stain using a broken tree branch as a scrubber.
He convinced the carpet shampooer, who was cleaning the carpet in the next room, that his carpet was dirtier, so the guy cleaned both.
He was able to keep his arm immobilized but do some handyman work for the manager.

He is now back on the street.
He won't get a job soon, because he needs a few months to heal, and his days of a clean shower are now limited.
He does have clean clothes.
He stores his clothes, and tools, and stuff from when he once had a room in a house, in his old car, which is waiting for a smog cert from Sacramento.

I dream of the ability to find temporary housing for our guests this winter.
I know, I just said that,

A social worker from 211 walked the line like an angel, (I don't think people really quite understand that there are real angels walking around) and helped a few guests with information. She may be able to help Tom.

I dream of the ability to find temporary housing for our guests this winter.
I know, I just said that. Again.

The List

I never spent much time in clubs, or in discos, so I really don't know what it's like to be on a 'list', that coveted and protected identification of who can get in and who has to wait; maybe all night. Maybe forever.

There is a list at Laundrylove, but everyone gets in.

When we began, people would ask us "but what if someone comes who is not needy? What if someone clearly is not poor and is just taking advantage of the free laundry?"

Two answers.

The first is, "we don't care". All are welcome.

The second is, because we are in part drawn to this work by our love of God and neighbor, "that is between them and God."

So here we were, on a very hot and muggy September night, ready to spend time in an even hotter and muggier laundromat. There is sometimes a nagging worry- what if no one comes?
As you can see by the list, no worries. After over 4 and a half years of doing this, we can count on a full list.

I don't think that the primary reason our regular folks( who are now most of our guests) come is for the free laundry, or groceries, or hot meal. Or for the new offer of free clothing (shoes, hats, backpacks, dress slacks, shorts....)

(Thanks Rory and Faye for making this a regular part of Laundrylove HB now)

I think our guests come now because it is community, a party, a place to relax and be safe. A place to learn about each other, and maybe to find some spiritual energy. It seems that the 'services' are now secondary (albeit an essential part of LL).

So Tom comes because he needs some laundry done and a new pair of shoes, but what he really needed was to tell someone about a tear in his biceps, so that we could confirm that it was serious, and pray for him as he sought medical advice tomorrow after the Xray results were in.

And Giovanna comes because this is where her kids, Kayla and Jose and Nathan come alive. They help out. Kayla hands out cold water that Steve brings early for the line. And they all color and draw chalk people on the front sidewalk, and when they receive some new clothes from Faye, they respond in gratitude by making a video of thanks to the donor. Giovanna has some time to do laundry, talk to Christian about her life, and relax knowing that for 3 hours her kids are having fun in a safe environment around people who really love them.

Paul comes, tonight more animated and blustery than usual, because he knows the volunteers will be patient with him, and listen to his stories of great conquest and wisdom, at least in his own mind.

A new guest comes with his guitar, and as he serenades the line, seems thankful that it's not just laundry tonight, but love. Steve notices he is playing a song from Tommy by The Who, and since he has been recently working on learning 'Sparks', the instrumental, he asks to demonstrate, and soon he and this new guest are sharing tricks on Pete Townsend guitar power chords.

Other new folks drop by, as always, and ask what is going on. Of course these first timers don't have laundry, but they welcome a bag of groceries, and really welcome a home cooked meal. What a gift to us to introduce the walk-in stranger to the unconditional experience of Laundrylove. No questions asked.

Well, OK, if you are doing laundry there are two questions: What is your first name (who cares if it's real)? And how may loads do you have?

So on this hot night, in the middle of the experience, at about 8 pm, here is what is going on in that moment:

Dinner is served. Chicken with Rice.
Music is blasting. Sounds like David Bowie?
Josh is dancing. His family, all disabled in some form, watches as Josh, like Giovanna's kids, is free to dance and rejoice in a safe place with people who will take him just as he is.
Washers are full. Dryers are nearly full. Volunteers are talking with guests and each other.
Nathan is next door as Kevin the barber gives him a haircut, paid for by Laundrylove.
Faye and Rory are out in the back giving away shoes to Tom and kids clothes to Marie.
Nayyer and Amed are rounding up guests for dinner.
Damian and his girlfriend are out front watching Jose draw body outlines on the sidewalk, but also dodge the squirt gun that Kayla has brought out.
Shannon is choreographing the movement, with Shevawn's help, of guests from the darkness of the alley behind the laundromat to the open washers. It's a complex game of supply and demand.

It looks like a Robert Altman movie. Dozens of scenes happening at the same time.
It sounds like a Charles Ives symphony. A guitar jam juxtaposed against the tunes from the blue tooth speaker sounds of Gen Y music, with a drone of dryer and washer Whooosh Whooosh.

It's a miracle. It may not be water to wine. But it's where world need gets smothered by love and a desire to do a little good for a few hours.

And it all begins with a list.

... and we also help with laundry

Chicken Bowls, Snow Cones, Corn on a Stick, Art Class, Clothes Shopping, Back-to-School Backpacks, Yoga Mats, Haircuts, Groceries...... and Laundry.

In August we had our busiest month ever. We welcomed our regular guests and a few new folks to the Beach Coin Laundry for our usual grocery, hot meal and laundry party. But this month we had a few extras.
In one corner, Barbra, from St George's Episcopal Church in Laguna Hills, set up Art Camp. As you can see, we had kids that were only too happy to create art for their parents. What a blessing to have Barbra there so that the parents can focus on their laundry while their kids are safe and entertained.

Shannon kicked off the night by welcoming volunteers, telling the story of T-Bone, and leading them through the activities and assignments for the night. Here she and Christian confer, as Christian announced that he could take donations via credit card using the dongle on his phone.

Meanwhile, outside in the back alley, guests were about to get their groceries courtesy of Laundrylove. Once a month we go to the Second Harvest Food Bank and purchase groceries so that we can provide our homeless and low-income individuals and families with some food.

After the orientation, and a short reflection from Steve on how grateful we are to have the opportunities to get to know our guests and volunteers and to take some time to give ourselves away, we got down to the business of laundry and love.

As kids are playing and drawing, and washers are loaded, and conversations fire up, and friendships are celebrated, we welcomed our volunteers who were serving the meal for the evening. As it turns out, we had two groups volunteer.
Gabby, our laundromat attendant and dear friend, had asked one of her friends to bring her cart with shaved ice and corn on a stick.
First they offered their own prayer:

Yummmm. The corn on the cob was served with butter, Parmesan cheese, spices and mayonnaise. The shaved ice came in all sorts of flavors and colors.

Teriyaki chicken bowls were supplied by our new friend, Sefo, the owner/sushi chef at Kiku (kikuhb.com) restaurant in H.B. has a program called "Chicken Bowl for the Soul" at his place where customers donate on their check and the restaurant supplies food for an organization like us.

As dinner began, volunteer Connor arrived with a truckload of clothes, shoes, backpacks, socks and more. Connor, who is about to start college at SMU, worked all during high school to gather clothing and distribute them to the less fortunate in Huntington Beach and surroundings. We met him and his mother at the new North Huntington Beach Laundrylove last month. 

And during dinner Nayyer and his son arrived with backpacks with back to school supplies, and we handed them out to the kids (there were lots this time). And Shannon then brought out some donated Yoga mats from her Yoga Studio.

And as always, the volunteers at Laundrylove are there primarily to have conversations with our guests. To find out what is going on in their lives. Where we can help them further. What is not working in the social services that they depend on. What is happening in their families. 
What a humbling grace it is to listen to stories, and at least be able to offer some food and laundry every month.

Thanks to everyone who continues to support Laundrylove Huntington Beach! 

You're invited!

We will be having a party/fundraiser and we would love you to be there!

A benefit evening for Laundry Love Huntington Beach will take place June 13th 2015.

The evening will feature live performances, a silent auction featuring local artists and businesses, raffles, food and drinks and more!  
The night will culminate with a performance by A Surrogate Band- a tribute to the music of Pink Floyd featuring tunes from Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.

Laundry Love seeks to help people who are struggling financially by providing regular laundry service free of charge.

All of the evening’s proceeds will be given directly to benefit Laundry Love Huntington Beach in order to maintain services provided as well as enable hosting efforts to plant additional Laundry Love services in laundromats around the region.

June 13th, 2015 5-9:30 p.m.

5 p.m.- Happy Hour- Patio
6 p.m.- Love is Simple-A Tribute to LaundryLove . 
7 p.m.- Taco Bar
8 p.m.-Surrogate Band- Pink Floyd Tribute

All ages welcome.  Price for the performances is pay- what- you- can.

WHERE: Saint Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church
                  18631 Chapel Lane
                  Huntington Beach, CA 92646

CONTACT:  For more information please contact Sarah Winney at LLBenefit2015@gmail.com.

LaundryLove: Who's Helping Who?

There's a bumper sticker rolling down the roadways on any variety of cars that says, "Who rescued who?"  The first time I saw it, it gave me a chuckle.  But it also stayed with me.  I found it a humorous little  example of grace and humility, the recognition that love can only exist as a circuit.  Yes, gifts are involved.  And who doesn't love giving gifts and seeing the delight on the face of the recipient when the giver recognizes that they nailed it!  But what of the receiver?  What if they never have the opportunity, beyond perhaps a thank you note, to reciprocate?  How long before the receiver becomes defeated, infantalized, or entitled?  What then?

I had a moment to consider this when the 13th anniversary of LaundryLove took place this weekend. I was unable to attend, but followed the posts with rapt attention.  One of the things I would have participated in had I gone was a lip-syncing contest in which the winner would be able to earn $1000 for their chapter of LaundryLove.  They needed a lead syncer who had to be male and there really was only one choice.  This particular person is pretty introverted, but a huge supporter of LaundryLove.  For the last three years of LaundryLove, he has become our official greeter, talking to people, getting to know them, initiating help for them. There's little he wouldn't do to earn that money.

Now lip-syncing as a completely exaggerated and comedic star was definitely not on his bucket list.  For the most part, this guy is a behind the scenes sort.  But motivated by his desire for that cash for our cause, by the faces of the people we have al come to know and love, he did it.  And he didn't do it as a shy guy.  I don't know if the syncing gave ways to singing, but if it did, he belted it.  As Julie Bryant commented, he ROCKED it.  I saw a picture of him with his arms thrown out wide, lost in the moment and I thought, "Who's helping who?"  Indeed.  This is LaundryLove. It's about love.  It flows both ways.  It creates a circuit that improves all of us.

Yeah.  We do laundry.  But that is only the beginning.  For everyone.

A long time ago, I read a book about someone's near death experience.  For all I know, the whole thing could be fabricated, but even in fiction, sometimes truth does not depend on fact.  The excerpt I remember went something like this.  The person and a spiritual guide are on a busy downtown street.  On the sidewalk sat a homeless person, bereft, reduced to picking garbage and asking for change.  The guide asked the near death person what she saw.  She said that she saw a bum.  Then a nicely dressed man with a brief case walked past them.  "What do you see there?" he asked.  "I see a successful man," she said.  The guide tells her, "Those two souls are best friends in the spiritual realm, and agreed to take on these lives.  They knew that the life of the homeless man would be painful and difficult, but the agreement was that the "bum" would inspire the "successful man" to start a program to help homeless veterans because of the compassion he aroused in his friend.  That bum is the noble soul."

Come on down to LaundryLove.  Come to meet some "noble souls" and I don't mean us.  We just help with laundry.  Our guests make us better people.  We meet on the second Wednesday of every month at 6:30 to do laundry and so much more.

And as our super lip-syncer always reminds me, there's a "Donate" button on this page, if you want to share your good fortune.  We sincerely, and with great verve, accept and appreciate your kindness.

Turning the Tide

"Tonight I get to sleep in a clean sleeping bag in my car.  You have no idea what that means to me."  The woman reached out and hugged me, just one of the many "thank-you's" of the evening.

Another one said, "It can only go up from here, right?"  His red eyes and creased brow provided a window into his distress.  I think he expected me to leave.  I stood next to the washer and waited.  "I just got evicted from my storage facility.  It's the third one.  They don't want the homeless there.  I think I'm just going to take all of my stuff and sell it at the swap meet."  This is frequently how the story goes.  It starts with a streak of bad luck or bad decisions and one failure leads to another, taking with it more and more of their self-esteem.  Pretty soon people start seeing themselves the way other people see them, unwanted and without value.  He swallowed hard.  "Thanks for listening.  And thanks for this.  You don't now how much it helps."

Paul, one of our regulars, the one with the fanciful backpack, stuffs laundry in a machine in his usual abrupt way.  One month he came and got into a fight with someone and left.  The next month, he came back and apologized.  He's been a model LaundryLove citizen since.  "You guys do a good thing here," he told me.  "Thank you so much."  And there you have it.  Those little moments of love among the laundry.

In our introduction, we warn our volunteers to not leave their bag of quarters lying around.  Between you and me, I've done it.  Every time, it is where I left it or it's been returned by a guest.  I still don't advise it because I think I've partially been lucky.  But it's also how things are between friends.  There's mutual respect.  We know one another.

In my everyday life, I'm a psychologist.  I've seen lots of hurting people and I've been privileged to watch them get better.  I'm convinced that it's not just my amazing skill that facilitates the process.  What I have seen more than anything is that it is infinitely more healing to listen and care.  Without that, people could have read the latest self help book and gotten better on their own.  It's like that at LaundryLove.  We could stand on a corner, offering money for groceries, a meal, and laundry.  We could do that and never know their face or their stories.  They would probably not remember ours.  But these people, we know them.  They are our friends.  They are ours and we theirs.

This past month, a camper that had been parked in the WalMart parking lot caught fire.  Someone drove it to a spot where it wouldn't harm anyone else.  A woman inside of it died.  I asked Shannon if she knew if the woman was one of ours.  "Yes, by association."  I guess the truth is they are all "one of ours."

If you want to join us, come on down.  Second Wednesday of every month at the Laundromat on the corner of Beach and Garfield in Huntington Beach, right next to the Honey Baked Ham store.  There's food and music and fun and laundry.  Lots of laundry.  If you would like to donate, the donate button is on this page or bring something with you.  We are entirely volunteer run and need all the help we can get.  Get to know the family.  There will be faces and stories you remember for a long time.

A Happy Mess

Our group can get a little messy, not messy like we don't clean up after ourselves, but busy with people.  By 6 PM on the evening of LaundryLove HB, a line circles the building.  We start distributing groceries to those in line, who come in one at a time and partake of the supplies from the Second Harvest Food Bank.  Sometimes we get lucky on the fresh produce and sometimes less so.  There are a lot of vehicles in the parking lot also.  We try to be good neighbors and most people support us, but sometime the local restaurants get a little nervous about the size of the crowd and fearful they might drive away customers, so this month, we ordered food from the nearby (next door) Malaysian restaurant and it smelled delicious.  General report from those who dined verified that the taste was equal to the aroma.

We at LaundryLove look forward to the 2nd Wednesday of the month, when our "family" gathers to catch up with one another, do laundry, pick up some extra food, share a meal and get a haircut.  We like to include the neighbors whenever we can.  Thai Gulf has always been very open and supportive of our endeavors and the barber next-door offers haircuts at a discount for LaundryLove.  It's a community effort.

This week we were missing one of our primary organizers and voice of the operation, Shannon Kassoff.  Instead, I took over her position.  It was a busy night and most of it went by in quite a blur.  I'd become so accustomed to dashing about and answering questions that when I heard someone say something, I responded as if they were asking a question.  I was greeted by a big smile.  "I was saying, 'hi,'" he said.  I laughed.  I almost forgot that this is the most important part of LaundryLove, the people, the friends we make, the feeling of care and comradery we experience with one another.  It's not a job.  It's a relationship.  I'd forgotten for a moment, so I stopped and talked.

We gather at the corner of Beach Blvd and Garfield, at the laundromat next to the Honey Baked Ham Cafe.  We are run entirely by volunteers and appreciate all and any donations.  There is a donate button on this page.  We also welcome any volunteers.  That is our main objective, not only to help people wash their clothes, but also to get to know them, to allow them to get to know us.  Not long ago someone asked Shannon if he could do anything for us, wash our cars or something.  She said we had what we needed.  He said, "That's the problem with these programs.  There's never a way to give back."  It set us all to thinking.  This last month, I had the privilege of joining a mission trip to Nicaragua.  While in a remote village, one of the women offered to wash clothes for us, which she did.  Being a servant means allowing others to serve also. Here is a picture of LaundryLove Cumaica Norte Nicaragua.