It's 7 p.m. on a weeknight at a strip mall in Huntington Beach, Calif., and people have been lined up for hours outside a laundromat here. They've been waiting for a chance to do their wash for free. As they file in, volunteers direct them to the machines and help them to supplies.
This is "Laundry Love" at work — a ministry that raises money to pay for detergent, dryer sheets and quarters for machines.
Laundry is a daunting chore for many people, but for the working poor, the cost of doing laundry — not to mention the time involved in hauling it to a laundromat — can be prohibitive. It can also mean going without other basic essentials.
Laundry Love gatherings may be the only time some people are able to wash their clothes, says volunteer Ken Kawamura.
The idea for Laundry Love began at an Episcopal congregation in Ventura, Calif., and slowly but surely, it's spreading. Now, more than 70 churches, mosques and synagogues around the country have adopted the practice.
For Giovanna Cortez, Laundry Love has become a necessity. With three kids, she has lots of laundry — and she lost her job in March.
"I have to come because I have no money for laundry," Cortez says. She says she probably saved $50 last month by using the Laundry Love service.church ]