Loads of Love, a laundry program that pays for community members’ laundry, has seen more demand since the start of the pandemic.
Christ Episcopal Church started the program in 2017, which runs the first and third Monday of each month at The Washhouse laundromat in downtown Blaine.
“The number of people coming in for laundry has increased every year, but this last year it really increased a lot,” said Susan Thompson, who helps run the program through Christ Episcopal Church.
Compared to 2019, 2020 had a 25 percent increase in people getting help with laundry, while the price of laundry jumped by 44 percent, according to a Loads of Love year-end report.
Once the pandemic hit, Thompson said Loads of Love suddenly saw an increase in
“[Laundry] can end up being around $50 to $60 in cash per month, which can be hard for some people to pull,” said Bruce Smith, who often volunteers for Loads of Love.
A family can receive up to three large and three medium loads, while an individual can receive up to one large load and two medium loads, Thompson said.
Joyce Gurneck, a Blaine resident who uses the program, has also noticed Loads of Love becoming increasingly popular since last spring.
“Sometimes we get here at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. even though it doesn’t start until 5 p.m. because we want to make sure we can do our laundry,” Gurneck said.
While Covid-19 has increased the demand, it has also meant volunteers now help people outside, rather than in the laundromat. This has caused Loads of Love to cancel the program during bad weather, impacting those who rely on the program.
“We used to have people who were volunteers and would walk around and talk to people doing laundry to see how they’re doing and if they need help. We don’t do that anymore because it’s all outside,” Thompson said.
Loads of Love also provided sandwiches, coffee and cookies for people using the service but has since had to stop.
“We understand why those things can’t be provided anymore, but we used to sit in here and eat,” Gurneck said. “It was a nice dinner for us. It was a nice and warm environment.”
Aside from halting food services, the pandemic has also put limitations on ways Christ Episcopal Church can raise money for Loads of Love. Thompson and Smith also both said they would like to get more volunteers to be able to cover laundry for the whole month, rather than twice a month.
Despite increasing demand without enough volunteers, Loads of Love still continues to go above and beyond helping people.
“If it were not for this program, I would not be able to afford doing laundry for my family twice a month,” Gurneck said.
Gurneck comes from a large family, for all of whom she does the laundry. This proved to be a struggle for Gurneck after both she and her mother were diagnosed with cancer. Gurneck had 15 tumors removed in March 2020 and is now in remission.
For a long time after her surgery, Gurneck felt very weak and her 88-year-old mom also was having a hard time.
“I couldn’t lift heavy things for almost a full year,” she said. “While we were sick, [the volunteers] would come out and help us carry our laundry.”
Gurneck said the pandemic has impacted both of them financially and mentally. In remission, Gurneck was unable to work and her daughter got laid off.
“My daughter could barely get through the phones to get on unemployment. It took her months and months to get through,” Gurneck said.
Along with free laundry loads, Loads of Love also supplies free detergent and dryer sheets for people, which Gurneck said has helped her afford other essentials, like cleaning supplies and toilet paper.
Loads of Love is still able to provide holiday food baskets, and gave 12 baskets to families this Easter, Smith said.
“That’s a big help, especially this year. This year was a really hard year,” Gurneck said. “Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to celebrate those holidays.”
Gurneck isn’t the only one who has seen the difference Loads of Love has made in her life.
“I’ve had numerous people thank us with tears in their eyes. They are just so grateful we are making this available to them,” Thompson said.
People who would like to volunteer or learn more about Loads of Love can contact Susan Thompson at email@example.com. Loads of Love is held monthly on the first and third Monday at The Washhouse, 715 3rd Street in Blaine around 5 p.m.
This article has been updated to correct the day of the week of Loads of Love. We regret the error.