ashland.news
May 19, 2024

Laundry Love stable at OHRA after move but hopes to find additional location

Becca Battaglia, right, and Grizzly Battaglia fold their laundry outside the OHRA Center's shower trailer in Ashland on Thursday. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
September 19, 2023

Need outgrew available facility, so washing and drying service supply for low or no income clients can’t meet demand until new space found

By Erick Bengel, Rogue Valley Times

Early this year, Laundry Love — a volunteer-run service in Ashland that helps people with low or no income clean their clothes — shrank.

For more than seven years, the service operated at Henry’s Laundromat in Ashland, using about a dozen machines twice a week, three weeks a month, so guests could wash and dry their clothing and bedding, according to Alexandra Reid, the volunteer coordinator.

“There’s a lot of benefits to that, obviously, just starting with health and self-esteem and ability to interact comfortably with others,” Reid said, “and it also helps to get a job or even to apply for a house to have clean clothes.”

Then, in February, Laundry Love had to leave Henry’s. The laundromat — the only functional one in the city — said Laundry Love had outgrown the space, where Henry’s has a flourishing wash-and-fold service.

Laundry Love soon moved into the OHRA Center’s small trailer on Ashland Street, which has two showers in front and a laundry and storage room in back. The room has three old, somewhat fickle washers and dryers; they are too small for bedding and can only be filled halfway with clothes.

Laundry Love volunteers can only serve people who use the showers — usually people who can’t get one elsewhere. Many guests come from across town; some are just passing through. They are often the folks who need the laundry service most.

Still, Laundry Love hopes to find a larger location while keeping the OHRA operation.

“We really miss being able to serve the larger group of people who need clean clothes,” Reid said.

She recently mailed a letter to Ashland City Council, which purchased property at 2200 Ashland St. for an emergency homeless and severe weather shelter. Reid asked the city to consider installing three or four washers and dryers at the shelter and giving Laundry Love time each week to serve the residents. The city was expected to take possession of the property Sept. 15, according to a news release from the city.

Reid helped found Ashland’s Laundry Love in October 2015.

Becca Battaglia, right, and Grizzly Battaglia do their laundry at the OHRA Center’s shower trailer in Ashland on Thursday. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch

She was then a member of Ashland’s First Congregational United Church of Christ and co-chair of its Local Social Justice Committee. The church was looking for a project to help the community. Dee Anne Everson, CEO and executive director of United Way of Jackson County, suggested the church create a local Laundry Love, a nationwide charity effort that began in the early 2000s.

“People understand the importance of clean clothes,” Reid said. “We’ve all come home from a camping trip and know at least that.”

They started fundraising. An associate minister helped them secure a grant, and the church began putting on an annual benefit concert with local musicians. Of the roughly $6,000 Laundry Love raised every year, about half came from the concert, Reid said. The rest came from businesses, other churches and individual donors. Almost all of that money has gone into using laundry machines. Most laundry supplies are donated.

If Laundry Love can purchase its own machines and find a place to hook them up, it won’t need that amount year after year, Reid said.

The operation has over a dozen volunteers, most in their 70s and 80s. Every Tuesday and Thursday, one or two show up at about 9 a.m. and brew coffee; Noble Coffee Roasting has started donating a 12-ounce bag of grounds twice a week. Now and then the volunteers serve homemade cookies and other snacks. Loads begin shortly before 10 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m.

Guests sign up for service at the trailer; the volunteers on duty let them know when it’s their turn. OHRA’s shower coordinator helps keep the line moving. When it comes to laundry, guests can put their own clothes into the machines.

“They have that sense of agency — they’re washing their own clothes — and I’m not going to lose a sock for anybody,” Reid said. Meanwhile, volunteers and guests strike up conversations, talk about their lives. “And it’s just a very convivial sort of situation.”

On Thursday, a couple in their 30s who identified themselves as Becca and Grizzly Battaglia came to use the service. Before arriving in Ashland, they had been traveling for the better part of a year, Becca said. Without a vehicle, they mostly camp in the area and use the laundry once or twice a week.

“They’ve got coffee and a chill spot, and they’re very professional, so we appreciate it,” Becca said.

Another guest was a man in his 70s who lives on the streets and recently returned to Ashland after time away. He said that without Laundry Love, he and his friends would wash their clothes in the sinks of public restrooms.

A former Laundry Love regular, 48-year-old Anna Waleke remembers what it was like to have the service at Henry’s when she was homeless.

“That made the biggest difference in my whole world,” she said. “I mean, when you have dirty clothes … you start off already in a bad space.”

She and her longtime partner now live in an apartment near 7-Eleven. Because they’re housed, they can’t use the OHRA service like they could at Henry’s. The couple have a combined fixed income of about $800 a month. To wash and dry a load of laundry at their residence costs $6. Every month, they feel the expense of multiple loads.

“It gets kind of expensive,” Waleke said.

Reid believes that, whether it’s at a new city-owned emergency shelter or somewhere else, Laundry Love will one day have a larger indoor operation again.

“Some of us had to quit volunteering when we moved our operations outdoors because we could not manage the stairs into the shower trailer or stand outside during our two-hour shift in the snow or the heat or the smoke,” Reid told the city council in her letter. “It would be a relief to be able to offer services to our laundry guests in a comfortable environment and to be comfortable ourselves.”

When she and her crew worked at Henry’s, volunteers sat out front at a table with a donation jar and laundry supplies. Occasionally, someone who could pay for their laundry would walk up and put a dollar or two in the jar, she remembered.

“And they would say, ‘I used to need this, too, and I’m glad you’re doing this.’”

Reach reporter Erick Bengel at ebengel@rv-times.com or 458-488-2031. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

Related Posts...

ScienceWorks hosts Sparking Action! Community Wildfire Education Day

Live fire demonstrations, DIY air filter workshops, Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge basket weaving, photos with Smokey the Bear and storytelling were all part of “Sparking Action! Community Wildfire Education Day” hosted by the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative Saturday morning at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum.

Read More »

OSF Gift Shop is back, bigger and better

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is back — and now so is the gift shop. On Friday, May 17, a 5 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the opening of the long-awaited new gift shop at the corner of Pioneer and Main Streets, formerly the home of the OSF Welcome Center.

Read More »

Ashland voters to decide two measures on primary ballot

Ashland voters will decide whether the city recorder will continue to be elected or instead become an appointed position and whether the chief of police must be the one serving as sergeant at arms, keeping the peace during city council meetings. Ballots must be mailed and postmarked by Tuesday, May 21, or dropped into an official ballot drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Read More »

Latest posts

ScienceWorks hosts Sparking Action! Community Wildfire Education Day

Live fire demonstrations, DIY air filter workshops, Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge basket weaving, photos with Smokey the Bear and storytelling were all part of “Sparking Action! Community Wildfire Education Day” hosted by the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative Saturday morning at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum.

Read More >

OSF Gift Shop is back, bigger and better

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is back — and now so is the gift shop. On Friday, May 17, a 5 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the opening of the long-awaited new gift shop at the corner of Pioneer and Main Streets, formerly the home of the OSF Welcome Center.

Read More >

Ashland voters to decide two measures on primary ballot

Ashland voters will decide whether the city recorder will continue to be elected or instead become an appointed position and whether the chief of police must be the one serving as sergeant at arms, keeping the peace during city council meetings. Ballots must be mailed and postmarked by Tuesday, May 21, or dropped into an official ballot drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Read More >

History: Ashland’s opera star connection

Ashland resident Tom Giordano didn’t know until recently that his grandfather Salvatore Giordano was a world-renowned opera singer who sang in Ashland 110 years ago at the opening of a new theater on East Main Street.

Read More >

Crossword: Canine Capers #01

Five activities at an Ashland park for Strider and friends. Solve crossword directly in the article or download a PDF to print. More crosswords under the Culture menu.

Read More >

Explore More...

ScienceWorks hosts Sparking Action! Community Wildfire Education Day

Live fire demonstrations, DIY air filter workshops, Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge basket weaving, photos with Smokey the Bear and storytelling were all part of “Sparking Action! Community Wildfire Education Day” hosted by the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative Saturday morning at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum.

Read More>

OSF Gift Shop is back, bigger and better

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is back — and now so is the gift shop. On Friday, May 17, a 5 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the opening of the long-awaited new gift shop at the corner of Pioneer and Main Streets, formerly the home of the OSF Welcome Center.

Read More>

Ashland voters to decide two measures on primary ballot

Ashland voters will decide whether the city recorder will continue to be elected or instead become an appointed position and whether the chief of police must be the one serving as sergeant at arms, keeping the peace during city council meetings. Ballots must be mailed and postmarked by Tuesday, May 21, or dropped into an official ballot drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Read More>

History: Ashland’s opera star connection

Ashland resident Tom Giordano didn’t know until recently that his grandfather Salvatore Giordano was a world-renowned opera singer who sang in Ashland 110 years ago at the opening of a new theater on East Main Street.

Read More>
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)

Don't Miss Our Top Stories

Get our newsletter delivered to your inbox three times a week.
It’s FREE and you can cancel anytime.