Everyone needs clean clothes, but for some families a trip to the laundromat can mean making financial sacrifices in other areas. A teenager and her church started giving people the gift of free laundry and now other congregations are washing their own Loads of Love.
Caroline Gowan:"I've learned how to be more compassionate for other people and to not take laundry for granted."
Sixteen-year-old Caroline Gowan spreads joy by the basketful...
Christian Lee: "This is a awesome thing that y'all are doin.'"
... cheerfully helping with a chore no one looks forward to.
Caroline Gowan: "All you need is some volunteers and some soap and some quarters."
Every wash cycle- done for free - takes a load off working families.
Christian Lee: "I saved about $20 this week, know what I'm saying? Just washing this couple loads I'm washing. So I'll be able to do something different with my children tomorrow instead of having to pay to wash clothes for them today."
Michelle Gowan: "You can't oversoap these."
One Friday a month, Caroline and members of her church, Bonaire United Methodist near Macon, Georgia, offer "Loads of Love." Free laundry …
Shannon Maddox: "I don't have my washer and dryer, they're in storage."
... for whomever shows up.
Shannon Maddox: "We're staying at the InTown Suites and the manager gave us one of these flyers so I said, 'OK. I'm gonna go down there on Friday and see if it's for real' because, never heard of anybody doin' free laundry!"
Caroline Gowan: "You can definitely tell what their job is because we wash their uniforms and we can also tell that they're not homeless that they're working poor. So Meredith, can you give me a dryer sheet?"
Volunteers are here to sing, sort, wash, and fold over the course of four hours.
Shannon Maddox: "Someone helping with the laundry, this is just a blessing today."
Shannon Maddox's family lost permanent housing after she suffered a stroke. Christian Lee has gone back to school.
Christian Lee: "It makes a very big difference. I have a lot of clothes, four boys, and so to be able to wash a couple a loads for the free each month really helps me out a lot."
(Grates soap) "This is ordinary Ivory bar soap."
Caroline and her mother started making laundry soap themselves to supply the church food pantry.
(Making soap) "You can make a five gallon bucket of soap for less than two dollars."
Store detergent is expensive and not covered by government assistance programs.
(Volunteer at pantry) "Shake it up before you use it, all right?"
The suds were a popular pantry item and an idea was born. Church members donate the laundromat money -- hundreds of dollars each month.
Michelle Gowan: "I grew up a United Methodist and so one thing that I know is that they are about serving other people."
Caroline earned the highest award in Girl Scouting for her Loads of Love project. Now other churches are following her lead and starting their own laundry ministries.
Caroline Gowan: "Yeah, I guess I did become an activist."
Dede Smith, Bonaire United Methodist Church: "My 11-year-old daughter, what a wonderful role model for her to see such a godly and giving woman such as Caroline."
Caroline Gowan: "When it's all said and done the laundromat's empty and it smells like fresh laundry and it's hot in there, we all just look around and smile because we did something really good tonight."
Caroline doesn't only work on "Loads of Love" one Friday a month. She speaks at other churches, and shares information about her efforts with anyone who is interested. At least three more churches in South Georgia and one in Alabama have already started laundry programs as a direct result, and congregations in other states have also been in touch with Caroline.
Meanwhile, a major household products corporation has promised Carolina a large shipment of detergent, so she and her mom won't have to make it all themselves to keep this going.
For more information, contact Bonaire United Methodist Church.
This video was first posted on April 27, 2017.