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

Inspiring Others, and the Grace of a Locked Door

As we begin our 5th year at Huntington Beach Laundrylove, we realize that in addition to the growth in what we do (laundry and conversation), we have developed relationships that enable us to help our homeless and poor guests find hope in their lives.

We've written about Ted before. Newly homeless (about a year). Working hard to get off the streets. He was sleeping between two dumpsters for most of the year. He has needed two surgeries. His first surgery was for his arm. Illumination Foundation helped him find shelter for his recovery. Not long enough, but still, it was a blessing.
His second surgery needs a longer recovery time, and so he needed a longer term recovery option. While at Thanksgiving dinner he was offered a chance to move into a room for a few days. He continued to work at getting housing, and at the January LL we heard that he has at last found it- an apartment, with assistance from American Family Housing.
"The first thing I did was to go into my apartment, lock the door, and lay down on my bed. I was so happy. I was safe. The door was locked!"

Laundrylove and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles also helped him pay for his car insurance so he could begin to care for himself, get through his recovery and rehab after surgery, and then begin to look for work (he was educated as an engineer).

After 4 years, the focus on helping our friends find housing is paying off. Wow! It wasn't the first time, but it's still powerful to see.

Our friends from the ICNA, who met with us last month about starting a Laundrylove in Anaheim, showed up to get a look first hand at how we choreograph our Laundrylove. Right away they told us that they had identified a laundromat in Anaheim, and plan to start in February. ICNA serves the community in Anaheim with a clinic, and feeds homeless in a nearby park. So this is a logical next step for them.
After 4 years, and inspiring at least 8 other Laundryloves in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, it's awesome to see our relationship with Nayyer and the Islamic Center of Orange County bear fruit with the ICNA Laundrylove.

Other than that, we were able to help with laundry for about 25 people this month.

We were a little more disciplined and so we were able to complete laundry early this month.

Christmas, Gospel Music, Street Art and Rinse Cycles

I walked outside about half way through last nights LL and here on the sidewalk in front of the Laundromat was this beautiful chalk street art, spelling Laundry, painted by the son of one of our newer guests. We are always amazed at what shows up at our Laundrylove celebrations.

The folks from St Wilfrid's Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach, who are one of our strongest supporters, brought us a traditional Christmas dinner, with turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes and stuffing, and all the fixings.

Meanwhile, the OCC Gospel Choir and Band sang Christmas songs while we dined. There were a lot of people last night, over 40 laundry guests and probably as many volunteers.
It was Josh's birthday, so we threw him a party, and ate birthday cake with his parents (Josh was a little busy dancing to the band):
 Here he is enjoying himself:

Meanwhile, the kids, led by Kayla, were busy decorating magic wands in the kids corner:

Rory and Faye handed out clothes again, and Nayyer brought socks, which are 'like gold' to our homeless friends. Kevin provided free haircuts, and we did a gazillion loads of laundry. 

Once again, with apologies to our attendant Gabby, we left at nearly midnight, as we helped Tom fold clothes and strap the bags to the trunk of his already stuffed car. Tom has been sleeping inside for the last few nights.

As I arrived, I noticed a man doing his laundry, and as others began loading up our grocery bags, I started chatting with him, since I was sure he was wondering what was going on. I explained Laundrylove, which Christian and I are now pretty good at, and before the night was over he was offering to bring us stuff from his mini-mart that he owns. It's a brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity.

The Gospel Choir, singing from the top of their lungs and bottom of their heart, managed to draw some attention from the neighboring apartment dwellers. They were a little loud I admit, but it's CHRISTMAS!
Anyway, I had a pleasant conversation with the Huntington Beach Police Department, and, since we want to be good neighbors, the music ended. 

It is impossible to put into words all that happens on a Laundrylove night. You have to experience it for yourself. Our volunteers are from churches and mosques, yoga studios and the neighborhood.
(The yoga studios, thanks to Shannon, have raised enough money in the last month to cover months of Laundryloves in Huntington Beach!)
 Our guests live on the streets and in cars, and in low income housing and apartments. The music is Gospel and Amy Winehouse. The food is middle eastern and turkey and chocolate cake and Mexican corn. 

If Jesus himself came by he would think, for a moment, that the Kingdom had broken in for 3-4 hours in Huntington Beach. Or Mohammad. Or Budda. They would all come in, grab a bag of quarters or a scoop for soap, join the party, and eat some cake. 

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.