As Annette Edelen did her laundry accompanied by the hum of washing machines and dryers on Feb. 7, a man called out names for Fayetteville residents to wash and dry their clothes for free.
Members of Laundry Love NWA, an initiative of the nonprofit Serve NWA, have organized monthly free wash nights at laundromats in Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale since 2008.
60-year-old Annette Edelen comes to the wash nights with her daughter Lakesha every month because of a “desperate need,” Edelen said. On Feb. 7, the two were doing six loads of laundry surrounded by suitcases, plastic bags and laundry baskets full of dirty clothes.
“I can truly say this is a God blessing for people who can’t afford to be able wash their clothes,” Edelen said.
Edelen said it would be “very expensive and hard” to do her laundry without access to Laundry Love NWA’s free wash nights. Edelen struggles to afford necessities such as laundry facilities because she must pay for 14 different medications, she said.
“It’s a blessing for the forgotten people of the community,” Edelen said.
Allison Slankard, the Fayetteville coordinator for Laundry Love NWA, said the lack of access to laundry care is an aspect of being homeless or living in public housing that many do not consider.
Approximately 100 people came to the Washarama on 15th Street on Feb. 7 to do their laundry, Slankard said. Patrons can wash and dry three loads of laundry while members of the Robinson Avenue Church of Christ provide them a free meal.
Michael Geng, who has been coming to every wash night for the last year and a half, also volunteers at the wash nights. On Feb. 7, Geng was making a waitlist for the washing machines.
Geng does not have access to a washer and dryer at his home, he said. The free wash nights help him save money.
It costs $4-8 to wash a load of laundry and 25 cents for 5 minutes to dry a load of laundry at Washarama typically, according to Washarama.
Slankard became involved with Laundry Love NWA after receiving an email asking for volunteers, she said. Slankard volunteered for the organization for 8 years before becoming the Fayetteville coordinator 2 years ago.
Slankard thinks it is important to provide laundry facilities for homeless people, she said.
“It gives somebody dignity to have clean clothes and a warm meal that they might not have any other way,” Slankard said.
Slakard’s two children have been helping at the wash nights for several years because she wants them to learn to help others, Slankard said.
“I think it’s important to find some way to help other people,” Slankard said. “I think these people are cast in a negative light and they’re stereotyped and prejudiced against because people don’t know their story. I think that any of us could be in their situation.”
Laundry Love NWA’s free wash nights are at 5:30 p.m. on the first Friday of each month at the Washarama on 15th Street.