A neigh­bor­hood wash pro­gram

Laun­dry Love cleans clothes for the home­less and needy in Hunt­ing­ton Beach.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil caitlin.kandil@la­times.com Kandil is a Times Com­mu­nity News con­trib­u­tor.

It’s 8:30 on a Wed­nes­day night, and Beach Coin Laun­dry is packed.

Thirty peo­ple crowd in­side, busily fold­ing T-shirts, socks, shorts and bed­sheets — trans­fer­ring their gar­ments in and out of the wash­ers and dry­ers, mak­ing sure no ma­chine is left empty for a minute.

The laun­dro­mat has been taken over by Laun­dry Love Hunt­ing­ton Beach, a group of vol­un­teers who pro­vide free laun­dry ser­vices to home­less and low-in­come fam­i­lies, of­fer­ing what may be their only way to get clean clothes for the month.

“We’re not any of­fi­cial thing,” said co-founder Chris­tian Kas­soff.

“We’re just a group of friends who wanted to give back.”

Laun­dry Love Hunt­ing­ton Beach started in 2012 as an out­growth of the na­tional Laun­dry Love move­ment that orig­i­nated in Ven­tura, when a small group of res­i­dents started brain­storm­ing about how to be­come more ac­tive in the com­mu­nity.

“We’re a bunch of rest­less Epis­co­palians who were get­ting tired of the Sun­day morn­ing ser­vice,” said Kas­soff, who was liv­ing out of his car and strug­gling with ad­dic­tion be­fore start­ing Laun­dry Love Hunt­ing­ton Beach.

“It was a lot of church, but not a lot of ser­vice. We wanted to dive into our com­mu­nity deeper.”

Af­ter set­tling on the idea of Laun­dry Love — be­cause clean clothes are crit­i­cal to a per­son’s sense of dig­nity yet re­main fi­nan­cially out of reach for so many, Kas­soff said — the group con­nected with Beach Coin Laun­dry, whose owner lets them “take over” once a month and use wash­ers and dry­ers late into the night.

Kas­soff also serves as a men­tor to groups around the coun­try who want to start Laun­dry Love branches in their own com­mu­ni­ties.

He es­ti­mated 50 peo­ple show up ev­ery month — a third who are home­less, a third who are liv­ing out of their cars and a third who are housed but are low-in­come.

Now, 5½ years af­ter Laun­dry Love Hunt­ing­ton Beach started, it has be­come an en­try point for a host of other ser­vices. The bar­ber­shop next door of­fers free hair­cuts and shaves. Bags of food and other goods are dis­trib­uted and fresh, hot meals are served.

Sev­eral months out of the year, Bill Bracken, founder and ex­ec­u­tive chef of the non­profit Bracken’s Kitchen, drives a food truck to the park­ing lot of the laun­dro­mat, where he cooks and dis­trib­utes fresh, health­ful meals for free.

In July, it was roasted chicken, Span­ish rice, beans and veg­eta­bles.

“Peo­ple are get­ting their laun­dry done, so if we can feed them a healthy, nu­tri­tious meal, hope­fully it will make the laun­dry time go quicker,” Bracken said.

Nayyer Alam, a vol­un­teer at Laun­dry Love Hunt­ing­ton Beach for more than three years, also pro­vides meals a few times a year by gath­er­ing fam­i­lies from the Is­lamic So­ci­ety of Or­ange County to cook biryani, a South Asian dish of rice, meat and spices.

“Ev­ery two to three months, they say to me, ‘Hey, when is the In­dian food com­ing?’ ” Alam said, laugh­ing. “It just gives us a good feel­ing, in a way, that at least for a few hours we’re help­ing and mak­ing it easy for them.”

In ad­di­tion to clean clothes and good food, Kas­soff said, Laun­dry Love of­fers a much-needed sense of com­mu­nity.

“One thing that’s unique about this sit­u­a­tion — un­like food pantries or other sim­i­lar kinds of ser­vices in the com­mu­nity — is that we have time to ex­hale … and we get to listen,” Kas­soff said. “You load the washer, you’ve got 25 min­utes, you load into the dryer, and you’ve got an­other 40 min­utes. In that space, you have time to be with each other.”

Pho­to­graphs by Don Leach Daily Pilot

A VOL­UN­TEER with Laun­dry Love, left, greets a client who ar­rives with bags of clothes at Beach Coin Laun­dry in Hunt­ing­ton Beach.

A MAN brings in gar­ments to be cleaned by Laun­dry Love. “We’re just a group of friends who wanted to give back,” said co-founder Chris­tian Kas­soff.

PEO­PLE wait in line out­side Beach Coin Laun­dry, whose owner lets Laun­dry Love “take over” once a month and use wash­ers and dry­ers late into the night.

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