On a recent sweltering Tuesday evening, James Mayne waited patiently outside the front door of the Wash Land laundromat on the Hilltop, his basket piled high with sheets and towels.
At 6 p.m. sharp, Todd Jacobson ushered him into the place with a smile and a palm filled with quarters.
Jacobson sank one quarter after another — 28 in all — into the thin slot of a washing machine.
The coins added up to $7 in savings — not an insignificant amount for the unemployed Mayne, who watched as his linens swished through the warm water.
“It helps when you’re strapped for money,” said Mayne, 51, of the West Side. “They do a good service.”
More important, the pick-me-up afforded him some dignity.
It also reinforced that other people care.
“You hear about all the negatives going on in the country over the past few months,” said Jacobson, 55, of Upper Arlington. “I wanted to help somehow.”
Jacobson attends the First Congregational Church, which sponsors the free monthly laundry service at Wash Land, on West Broad Street in the Franklinton Square Shopping Center.
The outreach takes place from 6 to 7 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month, with church members — six of them on July 26 — greeting any laundry-laden locals, accompanying them to washers and loading change and detergent into the machines.
Each customer — 11 families and individuals showed up last month — is given two loads of washing and four rounds of drying, with no questions asked.
Mayne had read about the service several months ago, he said, in the Franklinton News.
The program originated with Mark Williams, director of Christian education at First Congregational — who was thinking about outreach opportunities for young members when he came across an idea in his summer-reading material.
It mentioned Laundry Love, a national organization founded by a southern California mission after a homeless person was asked how he might best be helped.
His reply: “If I had clean clothes, I think people would treat me like a normal human being.”
The youth group formed a Laundry Love branch, which it expected to operate from October 2015 through May. It selected the Wash Land location — one of the few laundromats on the Hilltop — because of its proximity to Gladden House, a social-service center named after Washington Gladden, a First Congregational pastor in the early 20th century.
Since the fall, the program has served 125 families and individuals, inserted 7,219 quarters and provided 214 double/triple wash loads and 565 drying rounds.
Patrons place their laundry in the machines, but volunteers provide the quarters, detergent and dryer sheets — all donated by the larger congregation. (To collect the coins, the youth group puts Laundry Love sticks on empty tubes of M&M’s Minis and pass them out on Sundays to be filled.)
“What’s really fun is we really don’t have to announce too much,” Williams said.
Thanks to continuing donations, the service has been extended indefinitely.
The church recently started collecting boxes of trash bags, too, so that program clients needn’t haul their clean clothes home in dirty bags.
Congregants of all ages give time to the service.
During the Laundry Love night in July, associate minister Emily Corzine carried her 3-year-old daughter, Camryn, on her shoulders as she lugged a pink jug of detergent through Wash Land.
Camryn, who insisted on the pink bottle (maybe to go with her pink dress), talked to customers and helped slide in each quarter.
“One load of laundry isn’t going to change someone’s social situation,” Corzine said. “But this is one sliver of that opportunity.”