Camas church helps needy do laundry

Camas Friends Church spreads a little cleanliness in the form of quarters

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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photoJason Twyman, an elder at Camas Friends Church, feeds quarters into a machine at Riverside Laundry. The church’s Laundry Love program helps needy people wash their clothes.

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photoDon Burdon and Dorie Day are both unemployed. They said the Laundry Love program is a way to meet nice people whle getting help with their washing.

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photoRobert Seals, 22, left, and his brother Isaiah Seals, 20, are barely scraping by so they’re grateful for Laundy Love, a charitable program put on by Camas Friends Church.

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TO HELP

The Laundry Love project welcomes donations. Call Camas Friends Church, 360-834-2446, or contribute via PayPal at http://camasfriends.org/contribute.

WASHOUGAL It’s $1.75 for a standard-size top loader, $3.50 for a big front loader and $4.50 for a superloader. Then, it’s 25 cents for a meager seven minutes of drying time, which is never close to enough. Plus, there’s detergent. Add it all up, and the price of doing your laundry is as much as a decent meal or a gas tank top-off.

“This saves me some gas money. I can put an extra few bucks in the tank,” said Isaiah Seals, 20, who pushes wheelchairs at PDX and does some other odd jobs too, but still doesn’t make enough to more than scrape by.

Seals and his brother Robert, 22, who broke an arm and lost a construction job, were first in line when Laundry Love came to Riverside Laundry in Washougal last week. Jason Twyman, 34, an elder at Camas Friends Church, and some other church volunteers show up at 6 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month with smiles and bags full of quarters donated by their congregation or via PayPal.

“If someone could use a couple loads of laundry washed, we’d love to take care of the cost,” said Rev. C. Wess Daniels. “Stop by.”

Here’s how it works: Folks step up and tell the volunteers how big a load of laundry they’ve got that is, how big a machine they’ll need to use. The volunteers hand out colored tickets that serve as vouchers. They also ask their clients to sign in that’s just to learn names and get familiar, according to Twyman. Folks get their laundry loaded up and ready to go, and the volunteers go over, take back the voucher and feed the required quarters into the machine. That way, laundry is getting done and nobody is getting handed cash, Twyman said.

“Sometimes they’re people who are living in apartments with broken-down washers, or apartments that don’t have washers,” Twyman said. “Sometimes they’re people who have lost a job. Sometimes they are homeless.” The Laundry Love project, which began about a year and a half ago, has become such a regular institution that last summer the Camas Friends even hosted a Laundry Love barbecue in a vacant lot alongside Riverside Laundry.

“We’re working kids, just trying to live,” said Isaiah Seals, who moved out of his parents’ house after high school, slept on friends’ couches for a while and then got the PDX job. Now, he and his brother are sharing an apartment in Washougal. Robert said he can’t work right now but hopes to head back to school soon. He’s not sure what for, but he knows that’s what he must do. Meanwhile, he said, the money Laundry Love saves him helps him afford his depression medication.

Twyman said the Laundry Love project runs through upwards of $150 every two weeks.

Is it hard to come up with that kind of donation cash?

“Surprisingly not,” Twyman said. At first the Camas Friends Church was alternating Laundry Love dates with another local church, he said, but when the second church dropped out, Camas Friends wasn’t sure about “taking on too much.” That hasn’t turned out to be a problem, he said.

“Our mission is to love God and to love people,” said Twyman. “We’re not here to talk about Camas Friends Church. We’re just here to help people.”

“There’s always a need,” said volunteer Lisa Hartman of Camas. “And I enjoy talking to the people. They all have different stories. Some are just down on their luck. It’s great that they can do their laundry, but sometimes I think they really just want to talk.”

“You do meet all kinds of different people,” said Dorie Day, who was all smiles as she and Don Burdon did their laundry. Both are unemployed; she used to work as a cleaning lady and he was laid off from an Oregon lumber mill.

“It’s a pretty bad time to be in lumber,” Burdon said. His age is such that he doesn’t hold out much hope for retraining and new employment, he said. “Now I just walk around and do yards and roofs and stuff,” he said.

“This is a very good thing they do,” Day said of the Laundry Love crew. “Our apartment (building) has only one washer-dryer. It’s better to come down to the laundromat.”

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; http://twitter.com/col_nonprofits;scott.hewitt@columbian.com.