BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–In the wake of damaged homes and power and water outages, clean clothes may seem like a small thing. For one contingent of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, however, it’s a ministry.
“After a good, hot shower, there’s nothing like having clean clothes to put on for the next day, especially when you’ve been working three or four days in the hot sun,” said Gary Green, shower and laundry unit coordinator for Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief.
“The feel and smell of clean clothes help your morale, and you just rest better,” Green said. “You are much more refreshed for work the next day when you are clean.”
In early May, more than 20 mobile shower and/or laundry units were in place throughout Alabama for use by tornado survivors and disaster relief volunteers.
The primary role of these facilities, Green said, has been to provide laundry services for volunteers assisting in cleanup efforts as well as for National Guard troops and Red Cross workers.
By mid-May, two dedicated laundry trailers remained in operation. The first, a laundry unit from Texas Baptist Disaster Relief, was at North River Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa. The second was at Harvest House Restaurant in Harvest.
Butch Roshto, associate pastor of pastoral care at North River Baptist, said the laundry facilities initially were being used only by the volunteers from Texas who are headquartered at the church, including several chainsaw crews and a kitchen crew. Once the church put out the word through a local radio station that the facility was available, more dirty laundry started coming in.
“We had a huge pile Tuesday night, and volunteers washed throughout the night,” Roshto said.
At least one person had been led to the Lord in front of the laundry trailer, he said.
“The volunteers out here tell everyone that their goal is to help the displaced but also to share Christ, which is what they are doing,” Roshto said.
In Harvest, a team from South Carolina was coordinating relief efforts, which included shower and laundry facilities from South Carolina and Michigan. The team was headquartered at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Huntsville, and coordinator David Carver of South Carolina Disaster Relief said the church offered to do laundry for volunteers.
Bob Norris, also of South Carolina, is the laundry coordinator for the South Carolina team. “We’re happy to be here,” Norris said. “It’s a blessing to be able to help people.”
The laundry ministry is actually quite simple. Individuals put their dirty clothes into a bag and drop the bag at one of the mobile units. Volunteers then tag a clean bag with the individual’s name, and the clean bag follows the laundry through the process. Laundry volunteers wash, dry and fold the clothes and then put them in the tagged clean bag for pickup.
Generally two volunteers are assigned to each laundry trailer, which has two to four washers and dryers. Green said two training sessions are held annually at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center for laundry volunteers. A two-day training session in the spring covers the hitching and towing requirements for actually pulling a trailer as well as delivery and setup/breakdown of a shower/laundry trailer. The spring session includes laundry and sanitation instructions as well.
This fall, a one-day class will be offered at Shocco covering the basics of handling and cleaning the laundry and cleaning and sanitizing the showers.
Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief owns two shower/laundry units, Green said, and several associations have their own, with a combined total of 14 units available throughout the state. The training is standard, Green said, so that everyone is prepared to staff a trailer regardless of its origin.
Carrie Brown McWhorter is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist. To view the latest e-edition of the newspaper, visit online.thealabamabaptist.org. For information about donations to Alabama Baptists’ disaster relief efforts, go to http://www.alsbom.org/feature3.