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A new kind of Workday project

I made some new friends Saturday, people I honestly wouldn’t have had the occasion to meet had it not been for ShareFest.

I was part of a Laundry Love Project on ShareFest’s Workday.

The job sounded simple. Arrive at the determined Laundromat in Harbor City and offer to pay for patron’s laundry. We would also grill burgers and hotdogs and provide chips and sodas. Our purpose—as with any ShareFest project—was to show love to our community. I wasn’t prepared when the tables turned on me.

I am a veteran of all seven ShareFest Workdays, so I knew the drill. Take on a project, gather volunteers, complete the task and leave the location better than when we started. I worked this year with a group from New Hope South Bay and several close friends who gather once a week to share life together.

We traveled to the Laundromat—one I pass by everyday on my way to work (wonder why I never really noticed it before). We set up, gave the volunteers instructions and set to work. I was proud of our team as they canvassed the place and offered laundry soap and placed quarters in machines. Others stationed themselves around the area and told newcomers “We’re paying for your laundry today,” and “Lunch will be served shortly.” Patrons at first gave us quizzical stares but allowed us to place quarters in their machines.

That’s when I realized this was a different kind of project.

While laundry tumbled, patrons and volunteers began to interact. As we began to explain why we were there, people began to share their stories.

I met a man named Byron who told me he had been a long distance trucker but lost his job due to the economy. He has recently found work driving locally but still struggled to make ends meet for his family. He thanked me over and over again for the few quarters volunteers place in his washer. He explained that our impact went far beyond the loads of laundry. Our mere presence in that busy Laundromat showed him that someone truly cared.

All day stories were the same. As the place got busier word spread and patrons were seeking us out. Once the quarters were dropped conversation began. Language was never an issue. We found ways to communicate. Basic pointing and hand signals often sufficed. If not, another patron was called upon to translate for us—our team was woefully deficient in Spanish. Again and again connections were made everywhere. Neighbors and patrons of other businesses saw us grilling and joined us for lunch. This little Laundromat became a beehive of community.

About mid-morning a gentleman arrived with is son. We offered to pay for his laundry, but he refused us. He said, “Use it for someone else here.” He proceeded to watch our activity throughout the morning and seemed a little suspicious of us. Before leaving he pulled out his wallet and gave me $20 to give to ShareFest.

Personally I’m never going to look at that Laundromat or any other in the same way. I was guilty of looking at people but not seeing them. No more.

I was impacted that day by our amazing volunteers and more importantly by those we were serving. This was unlike any project I had participated in before. I’ve painted murals, weeded gardens, planted shrubs and cleaned classrooms. Each time the beneficiaries were off site. This time I got to look in the eyes of those who benefited from ShareFest.

One big guy, maybe ten years older than me, was wheeling his laundry out to his car. He was moving very slowly and appeared to have arthritis. As I approached him to say goodbye he grabbed, me pulled me in close, kissed me on the neck and said, “I love you.” I was stunned. As my eyes began to well up I stammered out a weak “thank you” and returned the hug.

We set out to show love to our community. But, what I wasn’t prepared for was that our new friends were ready to give that love right back. Now that’s a community I want to live in.

Kevin Dobruck

Kevin is a longtime ShareFest volunteer and the man who continually produces great logos and T-shirt designs for ShareFest. Thanks Kevin!

You can read more about ShareFest partner, JustOne and its Laundry Love project at http://just4one.org/laundrylove.html

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Reader Comments (4)

it is great to hear your story, and theirs. Too often we get caught up in the size and scope of our efforts, and don't stop realize the impact on an individual being served, or the one serving. Thanks for sharing this.

May 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe McMahon

Thank you for being there.. for me and for other who wanted to be there..

May 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJesse Noh

Beautiful!!! This brought tears to my eyes. I heard of Sharefest 2 months ago. After this past weekend and seeing all the stories shared here, I am hooked! Thank you Sharefest for such dedication and caring!

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill Parsh

Wow! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. With so many projects going on around the South Bay, it's awesome to hear the stories from each site.

May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHemmed In

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