12 Words I have OFTEN used to describe laundry in the past:

Boring. Time-consuming. Inconvenient. Worst. Long. Hassle. Annoying. Overdue. Frustrating. Bothersome. Nuisance. Chore.

12 Words I have NEVER used to describe laundry before Thursday:

Expensive. Fun. Efficient. Costly. Enjoyable. Well-Organized. Luxury. Pricey. Treat. Gratifying. Systematic. Rewarding.

On Thursday, I was in a laundromat for the first time. One word you may be using to describe me: spoiled. Over the years, I have always been lucky enough to live in a place that has a washer and dryer. The “chore” of doing laundry is one that I often put off for as long as possible, but it has never been because I simply didn’t have the money to do the laundry or because I felt that was something I could skimp on to save some extra cash.

As part of this journey, I will look to put myself in places I have never been and experience situations that are unfamiliar to me. Thursday was a great opportunity to do both of these. My first experience in a laundromat was eye-opening, entertaining and enjoyable.

You couldn’t help but catch some of Bri’s energy…except for Big Show of course.

This was the final step towards my goal of completing 12 hours of community service in Orlando. I found out about the opportunity through Volunteer Match. The site is a great way to find new and exciting opportunities to volunteer in your own community. After a few emails with Brianna (the incredible leader of the Movement), I was locked in to join the Street Team Movement on Thursday morning. Armed with good intentions and an open mind, I showed up at the laundromat a little before the 8:45 AM suggested arrival time. I walked in and sat down. The one patron in the laundromat asked if Bri (Briana’s more common name as I would find out later) was going to be there today. Either it was the fact that I had no laundry in tow or the fact that I looked out of place, but he knew I was there with Street Team Movement. I knew the name from the email, so I gave a quick yes.

My vision of throwing quarters in machines was not even close…

Bri would walk in a little later with Big Show carrying a well-organized box of supplies. I immediately realized my vision of just throwing quarters in machines was well off. They had this operation down to a tee. Bri was the fearless leader (she gives 30 hours a week to the movement on top of her job!) of the team of 3 others, a volunteering photographer (pictures to update website), and me on this day. This was operated like a true business. An individual had to make an appointment with the Team for Tuesday evening or Thursday morning. Although there was a grace period of 15 minutes, they had to make their appointment to get their laundry done that day.

Bri off gaurd
Bri tried to catch me off guard…I told her that is a pretty typical picture face for me. Of course the volunteer photographer was ready for the pic…

When the individuals showed up with their laundry they were logged into a binder with separated tabs for the different days and a history of all records. I was quickly reminded of previous treasurer days when Bri explained how important it was that every quarter used was recorded. After checking in with Carrol, their name was put on a dry erase placard(s). Two was the maximum number of loads the individual could do. Marie then took the name and searched for an open washer to clothespin the name to the swinging door. She also provided the individual with laundry detergent. The Street Team Movement even has their own Laundry Detergent! Big Show was the money man and had the bag of quarters. He helped the individual set the time, temperature, etc. to get the load started. He shouted back across the room to Carrol who recorded the amount of money used for that individual. This was carefully recorded in the binder. A similar process took place on the move from the washer to the dryer. Everything was down to a science and there could be no open washer/dryer time in order for the Team to keep all of the appointments.

The Street Team Movement does an average 0f 424 loads of laundry every week.

After learning the process, I hopped in wherever I could. With a limited number of washers/dryers, my main goal was to make sure there were no open machines. When a washer was done, I found the correct individual and helped them move to an open dryer. Bri was free to go grab coffee for the individuals doing laundry as they waited for it to finish or waited for their turn on a machine. This was much appreciated by all and one man even shared a packet of hot chocolate that he had in his backpack. As I looked around, I soaked it all in. Everyone knew Bri and most of the other volunteers. The interactions were that of friends. There was joking and laughing. Birthday wishes were given to one lady who happened to be celebrating her birthday. She also deflected attention to another lady who had celebrated her birthday the day before. This was more than just laundry. I was witnessing interactions among a community. I was affectionately referred to as the “New Guy” on multiple occasions. That is pretty close to acceptance…right? Regardless, I felt accepted and enjoyed my experience. Laundry will never be the same for me again.

UPDATE: This was a recount of my first experience with the Street Team Movement, but I returned the following week. My second Thursday back with the Street Team Movement allowed me to connect more with Carrol and Big Show as they shared stories and advice. I was in charge of the markers and monitoring the machines with Marie and Bri not able to make it in.