WOODLAND — Valerie Guerra spent three days trying to get the key to use the laundry room at the Lewis River RV Park recently, and even if she was able to get it, she’d be doing laundry for six people on one machine.
For Guerra, laundry day has been one of the harder aspects of moving her family to the RV park back in October. It’s hard to get in the laundry room, and if she can’t, going to a laundromat can cost upwards of $50, a trip, even more if she’s doing bedding and towels.
For the last three months, Guerra and her family have had some help. A Woodland branch of the national Laundry Love program started in April. The program allows an organization or church to cover the cost of doing laundry. A Vancouver branch started in 2010, and reopened in January after a car crashed into the laundromat last year. There are also locations in Washougal and Longview.
“This saved us this month,” Guerra said at the Sept. 11 Laundry Love event in Woodland.
The Woodland Laundry Love — which runs from 4 to 8 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month at Cedars Laundromat, 629 Goerig St. — was started by DeeAnna Holland. The idea came from Jeff Lord, the laundromat manager, who brought the idea around to a few organizations in Woodland, including the Woodland Action Center. The center, which operates a food bank, employment center and thrift store, didn’t have funds available to run it, but Holland, the board’s chairwoman, was interested.
• For more information on Laundry Love in Woodland email email@example.com or visit www.facebook.com/LaundryLoveWoodlandWA. Donations to help can be sent earmarked for Laundry Love to Woodland Action Center’s P.O. Box at Box 1475, Woodland, WA, 98674, or can drop off quarters during the Laundry Love event the second Tuesday of each month at Cedars Laundromat, 629 Goerig St., Woodland.
She organized the event, and has been funding it herself the first few months. She said the laundromat gives her a discount, and it costs about $200 a night to run the program. Amerigroup is going to start funding the program in November, and Holland is hopeful she’ll be able to run the program more than once a month with the assistance. In addition to the funding, Holland is also looking for volunteers to help run the program.
Holland decided to hold the laundry event on Tuesdays because that’s also a food distribution day at Woodland Action Center, which means that when people stop by the center to pick up some food, she and others can direct them to Cedars Laundromat, if they’re interested in help with laundry.
“There are some of the same faces,” she said. “There’s a group that comes, and it’s a hoot. There’s a lot of laughing. It’s like a party.”
The story of Laundry Love started in California when a homeless man was asked what someone could do to make a positive impact on his life. He replied, “If I had clean clothes, I think people would treat me like a human being.”
Holland said the Woodland Laundry Love is open to anyone, housed or not. She thinks the Woodland location is more likely to draw people in need of some financial relief than people living out on the street.
At the September event, there were plenty of parents doing laundry while kids ran around the laundromat, or took brief spins on one of the laundromat’s wheeled carts. The largest washing machines at Cedars can fit about six loads of laundry, helping to keep things moving during the event.
For the Guerra family, the event has helped them as they recover from a string of events that led them to camping out in a tent. The property they were renting was sold and due to a medical emergency, Guerra’s husband, Leo Guerra, liquidated his company to help the family stay housed. They ended jumping from hotel to hotel, with some hotels costing as much as $2,200 a month.
“It’s funny how you can do everything right and still end up without a place to stay,” Valerie Guerra said.
They decided to save up for an RV and live at an RV park, and so far they love it, she said.
“Our front door is 50 feet from the fork of the North Lewis River,” Guerra said.
For others, such as Barbara O’Connor, Laundry Love is a way to help keep costs down while trying to live on a fixed income. The Woodland resident was at Laundry Love’s September event, her first, and said she and her husband live on Social Security. She receives $650 a month and he receives $450 a month, she said. The two don’t have a washer and dryer in their mobile home.
“You can’t afford rent on that kind of money,” she said. “To do laundry, it can cost us $20. If I want to do bedding, it really adds up.”