A few hours before her shift started at work Saturday, Brenda Buhl walked into a laundromat to wash her uniform and a few other clothes.
Buhl got a surprise: She would not need the $5 bill tucked into her back jeans pocket.
Members of Gateway Church in north Fort Worth, in partnership with a national initiative called the Laundry Project, provided free laundry services Saturday across Fort Worth and in Haltom City.
“This made my day,” said Buhl, who was washing her clothes at King Wash on the city’s north side. “You never know when you wake up in the morning where your blessings will come from.”
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Members of Gateway converted five area laundromats into what they called “Community Centers of Hope,” where they helped low-income residents wash, dry and fold their clothes and provided quarters, snacks and supplies like soap and detergent.
Founded in 2008, the Laundry Project has assisted lower-income families in more than 20 cities across the country. The project is run by Current Initiatives, a Florida-based nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing people to bring about change.
“People shouldn’t have to make a choice between groceries and clean clothes,” said Jason Sowell, founder and president of the nonprofit. “This is a really overlooked need for families. Something as simple as clean clothes can be a game-changer for people.”
Gateway Church came across the idea when members were looking for ways to connect with the community. On Saturday, the church estimated it would wash more than 700 loads of laundry for 200 to 300 families.
“We are trying to meet the needs of our community and bring dignity to people’s lives,” said deacon George Garcia, adding that the church planned to continue working with the Laundry Project.
For residents, free laundry meant a small and unexpected fortune.
“The $5 I would have spent here can now go in my gas tank,” said Buhl, who works at a tea and coffee shop in Fort Worth. “It’s an amazing blessing.”
Usually, Oda Key, a retired hospital worker who lives in Haltom City, spends $8 to $10 washing her laundry. In August, Key will undergo costly surgery for a knee replacement.
“I need to save all the money I can,” Key said.
Volunteers did more than wash laundry. They also entertained children and chatted with residents. Key talked to church member Dawn Stahl about her children, her hospital work and the transition to retirement.
After he finished washing his T-shirts and bluejeans, Angel Marquez said he planned to forgo his usual lunch of bread and milk and pick up some tacos with the $4 he saved.
“You never expect something like this,” Marquez said. “I couldn’t believe it.”