As Florida trudges its way through a pandemic, many of its citizens have grappled with unemployment and struggled to pay their bills. Last month’s JEA bills also skyrocketed, leaving a rising amount of Duval scrambling to adjust their budgets for necessities and back to school.
Laundry is one of these necessities. Whether it’s from home, adding to the electric and water bill, or a trip to the laundromat, clean clothes can cost a pretty penny. Fortunately, Jacksonville may find some relief with an affordable laundry initiative from Tampa- based Jason Sowell, who runs the nonprofit Current Initiatives and started the Laundry Project.
“About 12 years ago I was in LA visiting some friends who worked with homeless people at the time, and they took one of the guys to a laundromat to wash his clothes. While I was there I talked with some families that were single moms andjust struggling financially. I learned from them that a lot of families are having to decide between buying groceries or washing their clothes, and I fortunately didn’t have to grow up like that. It’s a choice I don’t think anyone should have to make, but it’s a real choice for a lot of families. So when I came back to Tampa I started the Laundry Project. I wanted to do what I could to provide some relief to that financial burden to families and individuals in need,” he said.
Though it may sound daunting to get a community initiative off of the ground, Sowell has been running the Laundry Project with great success for over a decade, crossing state lines. “We started the project 12 years ago at one laundromat and have since grown to providing it in 11 states across the U.S.”
With these astonishing and inspiring figures, Sowell hopes that Jacksonville will follow suit.
He expanded his project and launched it in Jacksonville around 7 years ago and plans to reach into the Jacksonville Beach area, but more people in the area couldbenefit from it.
“Jacksonville can help by working with us to get financial sponsors. We like all of our projects to be funded locally by individuals and local businesses. We use a lot of laundry supplies such as soap and bleach and softener so people can donate that and/or donate financially to put quarters in machines for these families.”
But how likely is it for Duval to get the free laundry project, amidst a pandemic? “Usually these projects are pretty open to the public on a first come first serve basis and we advertise through the laundromat,” Sowell explains, “During the pandemic we’ve had to retool a little bit and we have families sign up for time slots throughout the day to keep to social distance and safety guidelines. Families can contact us and we get them signed up via email, social media or text. We try to make it as accessible and easy for families as possible.”
This assurance and initiative comes as a relief for many local families. Want to get involved? Volunteers are welcome: “We have some incredible local volunteers and supporters who are fully invested that continue to help us do more in Jacksonville and on a regular basis.”
Should Duval utilize the Laundry Project in action, no longer will many be scrounging for change in couch cushions or desperately digging into jean pockets for a spare quarter. With a helping hand and a plan, it’s finally time to wash, dry, fold and relax - and to put that spare change aside for a rainy day.
For a list of city and community resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit https://www.coj.net/recoveryresources.