St. Mark Lutheran Church in Lacey has reached a helping hand across College Street to help families at neighboring Mountain View Elementary School.
St. Mark Pastor Eric Utto-Galameau said the church’s partnership with the school began a few years ago when he challenged the congregation during a sermon to imagine what they could accomplish if they gave $10,000 and 1,000 hours of service to the school across the street.
But it expanded about 18 months ago, when Utto-Galameau asked North Thurston Public Schools homeless liaison Brenda McAferty what the church could do to help Mountain View.
McAferty suggested providing a laundromat. McAferty had been meeting families of homeless students from throughout the district at commercial laundromats and providing them money for the machines.
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“I work with many homeless families in our district,” McAferty said. “When it comes between food, shelter, gas — those are more important than getting your laundry done.”
The school had previously used classroom space at the church, and one room with adjacent plumbing seemed practical, so plans began. An architect and contractor donated their services, the appliances were donated by McKinney’s appliance store, and the approximately $7,500 cost of materials was covered by a grant from the North Thurston Education Foundation, donations from service clubs and other donations.
The solution is helping Mountain View families as well as others throughout the district.
“All this happened with community support,” Utto-Galameau said.
“I think it’s kind of one of those things that takes a village,” McAftery said.
It was a huge relief to Rachel Friciellie, who was there Friday with two of her three children. Homeless for several months after leaving a domestic violence situation, Friciellie has been living in shelters and with friends, keeping the family belongings in a borrowed car. The friend she has been staying with fell behind on her bills and the water has been turned off, Friciellie said.
This past week, her two youngest, girls 1 and 4 years old, had been sick, creating even more laundry.
Friciellie, 29, hopes to find a family shelter so she can concentrate on finding a job. She said she’s looking at housekeeping or receptionist jobs, and hopes to get additional training to finish her medical assistant certification. She needs to save money for a car and find daycare for the girls. Her 7-year-old son is having a successful year at Chambers Prairie Elementary School, so she’s hoping they won’t have to change schools.
“I’m trying to do everything at once,” she said as she prepared to move their clothes from the washers to the dryer. Her 4-year-old was anxious for her blanket to be clean again.
The Clean Kids Laundry program works on a referral system. Families contact McAferty, who issues laundry vouchers and sets up a 2-3 hour reservation for the laundry room. A volunteer from the church is on hand to provide laundry supplies and help entertain the children.
Volunteer Earla Ferry brought a kids’ table and chair that her grandchildren had outgrown, and provided coloring activities and puzzles. She offered to take the 4-year-old on a walk to the garden, another community effort of the church. They came back with a handful of broccoli, a tomato and a bouquet of lavender dahlias.
It was Ferry’s first time on laundry detail, and she was already full of ideas. “We’ll need some activity kits for the children,” she said.
To accommodate families, the room is larger than needed for the three washers and three dryers, said Rob McKinney, manager of McKinney’s Appliance. He said Utto-Galameau reached out to him at the beginning of the project and they set aside the machines.
“Of course, we definitely like to do things like this to help the community,” McKinney said.
As McAftery said, it takes a village.