WARNER ROBINS, GA – It’s Friday evening, and Caroline Gowan, 16, is doing her favorite weekend activity. She’s standing hanging out at her neighborhood laundromat.
“It’s a great thing to do on a Friday night,” she said.
The second Friday of every month, Gowan brings quarters, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and more to pay for strangers to be able to wash their clothes. Families often bring trash bags full of dirty clothes. Gowan and other volunteers from her church work together to wash and fold it all.
She calls it Loads of Love.
It started as a 6-month Girl Scout project when Gowan was 14. Gowan’s mom, Michelle, told her not everyone could afford to buy a washer and dryer, and expenses at the laundromat quickly add up. Gowan decided she wanted to do something to help.
Gowan had so much fun washing clothes and meeting people in her community that once the Girl Scout project was complete, she partnered with her church to keep the free washes going.
“It’s taught me to have compassion. A lot of compassion for other people, and to be thankful, because we are so blessed,” Gowan says, her eyes filling with tears.
When she started the project, she thought she’d be helping homeless people. She was surprised to find out that it was mostly people who had jobs, but were barely getting by, who needed her help.
“Some people judge others on the way they look, or the way they smell or the way they act,” Gowan says. “They can be a great person in dirty clothes. So they can come here, and get their clothes washed.”
Her idea is quickly spreading. People in other cities in Georgia and Alabama have already started their own version of Loads of Love. After nearly two years, Gowan wants to keep her event going for as long as possible.
“What do I like to call it?” she asks out loud. “Come in with dirty clothes, leave with a renewed spirit.”
For more stories like this, LIKE Humankind on Facebook.