Pair of friends launch laundry ministry
After coming across a local iteration of Laundry Love, a national group that provides free laundry services to those who can't afford them, Lisa Thoele found the idea of doing something similar as a ministry in Newberg had stuck in her head.
Although she didn't realize it at the time, all she needed was a little push.
Enter friend Julie Roshak, who contacted the owner of Newberg Coin Laundry to get permission to set up shop there once a month.
That was enough to get Loads of Hope off the ground and since July the pair has been giving away quarters and soap to whomever may need it from 4 to 8 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month.
"I was talking to Julie last spring and she said, 'Let's just do it,'" Thoele said. "So she really got the ball rolling. Sometimes you need somebody to come alongside you and kind of push you forward."
When Roshak contacted the laundromat, she learned that Newberg Church of Christ has done the same thing previously with longer hours, but did it only occasionally. That helped her confirm that there was in fact a need in the community and got some guidance on how to help people they might expect to serve.
"It was amazing," Roshak said of the first session. "We just showed up with our laundry detergent and the quarters. We were offering to everybody that came in. We did get a lot of odd looks."
Thoele estimates that it takes about $5 to complete a load of laundry. For her own family, she does about six loads per week, so she knows that can quickly add up.
"It's hard to convey that just doing laundry can make such a big difference for somebody, maybe how they feel," Thoele said. "We're not changing lives. We're not feeding people. There are basic needs that are a lot more important than this, but it's a simple thing that can really make somebody feel better."
It seems that the community sees the value, too, as several people have made donations to help cover the approximately $350 it takes Thoele and Roshak to serve the 25 to 30 households that show up each month.
That includes friends and strangers, like one couple who gave a $50 check on the spot after learning why the pair had offered to pay for their laundry.
"We've just had neat things that have happened through it," Thoele said. "Somebody heard about us through Facebook and sent us a check. One of my friends who has a cupcake business donated 10 percent of her profits for a month and that was about a month of laundry. We've had a lot of nice outpouring from people who we know."
A fairly recent addition to the congregation at Rock Point Church, Thoele connected with Pastor Karyn Wells and the church came aboard as a partner two months ago. Wells is also president of the board of Love INC of the Newberg Area, so it was almost inevitable that it would become one of its gap ministries, especially because Rock Point wasn't operating one at the time.
"It was just two friends and they were paying for everything out of pocket," Wells said. "It would be awesome for her to have support and also have a steady flow of clients. With Love INC, we can do that for her, too. It was a really good fit."
Love INC operates on a voucher system to help track use and will both refer clients to Loads of Hope and receive referrals back. Wells said the ladies group at Rock Point has also made enough laundry soap to supply the ministry for a year.
"We just keep doing our thing and if people want to join with us, we're so excited about that," Thoele said. "Both of those relationships are really exciting and we're really fortunate to have them and it's just kind of evolving. In the meantime, we just keep doing laundry night once a month."
Veritas School has also adopted Loads of Hope.
Thoele and Roshak have also gotten to know several of their many regulars pretty well, which was one of their original intentions. One regular has already signed up for Love INC's relational ministry and there is also interest in starting a Bible study group.
"Just being able to bless someone, that is the most precious thing about it," Roshak said. "Everything has just been falling into place for us. It's just been wonderful."