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News / Clark County News

Laundry Love in limbo after car crashes into building

Two-free-loads Thursday evenings on hold amid laundromat's uncertain future

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: May 8, 2017, 9:12pm
5 Photos
Vancouver resident Kevin Stanfield, left, talks to the manager of Laundry Love, Jackie James, about the damage caused by a Dodge Charger crashing into the front of the building. James heard about the incident soon after it happened.
Vancouver resident Kevin Stanfield, left, talks to the manager of Laundry Love, Jackie James, about the damage caused by a Dodge Charger crashing into the front of the building. James heard about the incident soon after it happened. "When I pulled up and saw this, my real reaction was, 'What are my people going to do?' " (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Glass littered the coin-operated laundromat Laundry Love, its front facade shattered by a car crashing through it early Sunday morning.

Clearly, the people behind Laundry Love have work to do. What’s unclear, though, is what will happen to the business, a mainstay in Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood.

Manager Jackie James is most concerned about the customers.

“How are they going to have clean clothes now? Because that’s what this place is all about — the helping of the needy, the poor,” she said.

Every Thursday evening, Laundry Love offers two free loads of laundry and provides the laundry detergent, dryer sheets and snacks. Churches and charitable groups sponsor some nights. Upwards of 60 or so people show up to do their laundry.

Nobody was around at 2:50 a.m. Sunday when a Dodge Charger spun backwards into the glass front of the building at 2101 St. Johns Blvd. About 10 minutes prior, a deputy with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office initiated a pursuit after seeing the Charger driving recklessly on Northeast 88th Street without headlights on, said Sgt. Brent Waddell.

“The pursuit was actually terminated moments before the driver lost control,” he said.

The unnamed 17-year-old driver crashed into planter boxes and sheared off a telephone pole before spinning around and plowing backwards into the front of the laundromat, Waddell said. He was taken to the hospital as a precaution but was not injured in the crash.

“The kid’s lucky to be alive,” Waddell said.

The teen was booked into the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center on suspicion of attempting to elude police, possessing stolen property and taking a motor vehicle without permission, and the case was also referred for possible driving under the influence.

He was a runaway from Oregon, Waddell added.

“I would love to meet this kid simply to tell him not that it’s OK, but make this a life lesson,” James said. “Can you grow from this? Can you learn that this is really not the lifestyle you want to pick? I have no animosity toward that child in any way.”

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James doesn’t judge, she said. She’s earned a reputation as a compassionate manager who doesn’t take crap from people, a sort of tough-love mom of the Rose Village neighborhood. She’s in charge of deciding who’s worthy of getting free laundry, and who’s trying to take advantage of the system. She’ll accommodate people in need who can’t make it out to the laundromat on Thursdays.

So, it’s painful for James to see her beloved Laundry Love this way.

“It is so much more, so much more than a set of washers,” she said, her eyes welling with tears. “And all these people that everybody looks down upon have come by to see that I’m emotionally OK.”

A man who’s homeless has been watching over the building since the crash. Many of the people who use Laundry Love are homeless or live at nearby apartment complexes.

“There’s almost always someone here that people can talk to when they’ve got nothing else to do but talk, you know, when they’re doing their laundry,” said Laundry Love’s owner Jason Snyder. “We learn a lot about what people are going through, and then we can a lot of times figure out solutions for their other tangible needs. That comes from a relationship.”

James said that a handful of people she knows from Laundry Love have successfully gone through recovery.

It’s too soon to say what will happen to Laundry Love, and when, though Snyder said the building can’t stay in its current condition for long. The crash was inches from damaging the gas main. Dryers at the front of the building are ruined, and it’s unclear what kind of glass shards could’ve gotten into other machines.

The building and business are both insured. Either the building will be repaired, or it may be so damaged that it will have to be torn down and rebuilt, said Snyder, who heard about the incident from his landlord.

Vancouver’s Laundry Love started in late 2010. Laundry Love has dozens of locations around the country where an organization or church steps in one night to cover the cost of doing laundry. Camas Friends Church and St. Anne’s Episcopal Church sponsor Laundry Love every first and third Thursday at Riverside Laundry in Washougal.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith