KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Over the weekend, hundreds of people stopped by the Mothers of Hope building on Ada Street to pick up laundry detergent, bleach and other supplies.
Members of the nonprofit converted the parking lot next to their building into a makeshift laundry store.
Program Director Stephanie Moore said so many people stopped by that they now have a waiting list of 200 people who they're also trying to give laundry too.
“What we’re doing is responding to this coronavirus epidemic,” Moore said during an interview with FOX 17 on Tuesday afternoon. “And what we know for sure is that hygiene plays a big role in decreasing the spread of the virus.”
She said the laundry assistance program launched on Saturday April 18. Since then they’ve given away $11,000 worth of prepaid laundry cards and $4,000 in laundry detergent, which ultimately helped over 300 families who live in Kalamazoo's inner-city and poor neighborhoods.
“We have people, particularly low-income people, who are working but who are essential employees,” Moore said. “They’re going to work every single day, being exposed and then coming back using public transportation, [going to] the grocery stores and to their own homes and their families.”
Moore stated that Black communities are the hardest hit by the virus, especially in major cities like Chicago and Detroit.
In Kalamazoo, many African Americans are concentrated on the north side of town, where residents travel on public transportation to do their laundry, she said.
“A lot of people that live in the core urban neighborhoods live in some of the oldest housing stock in Kalamazoo,” Moore said. “So they don’t have the option to have a washer and dryer in their home.”
It’s what one of their former volunteers, Shequita Lewis, faced regularly, Moore said.
Moore recalled a time when Lewis walked several miles from her home on the north side to Western Michigan University School of Medicine to partake in an Equity Task Force meeting. When she arrived, Lewis got ‘very emotional and began to cry.’
“She was sad because her children had not went to school that day and she ended up telling us because they didn’t have clean clothes,” Moore said. “She did not want her kids to go to school in soiled attire and be teased or bullied or be talked about.”
Immediately Moore and others took Lewis to the laundromat to wash her kids’ clothes.
The next day they were in school, Moore said.
In 2018, Lewis ran for Kalamazoo County commissioner and lost. Sadly, the following year she was killed.
“This was a program that she championed while she was still alive,” Moore said. “She was a single parent raising her children and having access to laundry was a real barrier for her.”
Now, Moore and others with Mothers of Hope are making sure that no one runs into that barrier, she said.
They officially dubbed the event ‘The Shequita Lewis Laundry Assistance Project,’ Moore said. Right now, they’re rebooting and so they can distribute even more laundry detergent in the future.
“We’re pursuing more funds," Moore said. “So we’re definitely looking for people to donate to Mothers of Hope, which is a non-profit and your donations are tax deductible."
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