POMONA >> Laundry Love night at the Pronto Wash laundromat looked much like any other evening at a self-service laundry, with one exception.
When a customer loaded a washer or a dryer and was ready to start it he or she would call over one of several volunteers posted around the establishment. The volunteer produced a resealable sandwich bag and took out enough quarters to start the machine.
The quarters, powder detergent and dryer sheets are all provided free by Laundry Love to help low-income families and the homeless have clean clothing.
“The people are so grateful,” said Sharla Wickman, who spearheaded the effort to start Laundry Love at the laundromat and coordinates the volunteers.
Every second Tuesday of the month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Laundry Love volunteers are at the laundromat.
For some people on a very limited budget a pile of dirty laundry means making a choice, Wickman said.
“You can eat or have clean clothes or buy gas,” she said.
Shane Galbreath found out about Laundry Love walking past the laundromat one day.
Doing laundry is not easy for Galbreath, a 10-year resident of Pomona who has been homeless for about the last two years. Galbreath survives by collecting recyclable materials. Without Laundry Love he wouldn’t been able to wash his blankets and other garments.
“I would have to wait ‘til I could do it,” he said.
Pomona resident Herlinda Juan Pedro has done laundry with the help of Laundry Love three times.
“We don’t have a way of repaying them,” Pedro said in Spanish. “All we can do is pray to God for them.”
Pedro said her husband earns very little and supplements the family’s income by working as a day laborer. After setting money aside for rent, utilities and food there is little left, she said.
Erica Bello of Pomona found out about Laundry Love through a friend.
“I’m a single mother and this is of great help,” she said in Spanish. The money she saved with the help of Laundry Love will go toward buying groceries, she said.
Volunteers keep going, inspired by a sense that what they are doing that makes a difference for people.
Laundry Love can help meet a very basic but important necessity of life.
Wickman recalls one homeless woman telling her that without clean clothing “I can’t go and ask for a job.”
The service also help them have clean bedding.
“How many of them haven’t slept in a clean blanket for who knows how long,” Wickman said.
Wickman started Laundry Love in December, a few months after volunteering at a Laundry Love project organized by a member of a Claremont-based church.
The need was so great people lined up at a laundromat in the area of Foothill Boulevard and Garey Avenue an hour before the service was available, she said.
Wickman decided to learn more about Laundry Love and start a similar project in a central Pomona location.
The Laundry Love effort began 13 years ago in Ventura with the goal of helping the homeless, according to the Laundry Love website.
Since then more than 300 Laundry Love initiatives have been established around the country, said Greg Russinger, national director and co-founder of Laundry Love. Many of the Laundry Love initiatives have been established by faith-based groups but others are not affiliated with houses of worship.
Wickman’s effort is not tied to any church although a core group of the volunteers consists are men who attend church at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills. Among them is Danny Cedillo.
“This is an opportunity to reach out to people,” he said.
Cedillo, a man of great faith, greets people at the door and determines the size and number of washing machines they will need then explains how the Laundry Love system works.
He also takes time during the night to chat with people and speak about God and faith.
Laundry Love is always in need of quarters, powder detergent, dryer sheets, black trash bags, gallon and sandwich size resealable plastic bags and self-stick notes. Donations can be dropped off at Pronto Wash after 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month or to make arrangements to have donations picked up, call 909-374-9220.