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Church ministers at laundromat

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By Felicia Gray

Last Saturday, anyone who walked inside the Laundry Basket received free laundry services. Not only were their loads paid for, they were given free laundry detergent, dryer sheets and snacks.

Throughout the day, members of Hodgenville United Methodist Church took turns assisting the customers of the laundromat with their clothes.

“They were awesome,” said Denise and Harvey Higdon, owners of the Laundry Basket.

The Higdons had owned the place a little more than a month when HUMC Pastor Robert “Bob” Howell asked them if the church could pay for their customers’ laundry.

The Higdons said they had doubted whether buying the Laundry Basket was what God wanted for them, but the experience with Hodgenville UMC eased their doubt.

They said at first they were worried that the machines might not be in the best condition — they had already fixed several of them — but they told Howell that it was OK, that “God will work it out.”

At least one member of the church was present, giving out quarters and supplies, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Denise Higdon said they even helped fold clothing.

“They weren’t pushy to try to witness to people, they just made themselves available,” she said. “They didn’t care who you were, what you looked like, if you came in, you got free laundry.”

“We’re not trying to make them Methodist, we’re just trying to show them that we care. But, we don’t want them to think Hodgenville United Methodist cares for them, we want them to think Christians care for them,” said Howell.

Howell said Saturday served as a kick-off and they “can’t wait to really get going.” They plan to do it again at random times throughout the summer, and next time they will bring activity books and crayons for the children.

“Hodgenville UMC’s motto is strengthen within and serve without,” said Howell. “And we try to do that.”

Howell said the laundromat ministry is not something his church came up with, but something that churches around the country have started doing as a way to minister to people in their communities.

“We’re looking for a way to make an impact,” said Howell.

According to Howell, one of the ladies they met at the Laundry Basket couldn’t afford to wash all of her clothes, so she had just brought some of them. They told her to go home and bring more, but she wouldn’t do it. She encouraged the church members by reminding them they were helping people, because, she said, they wouldn’t be at the laundromat if they could afford a washer or dryer of their own.

“We’re blessed doing it as much as they are receiving it,” said Howell.

The church began collecting the money for the benefit during Lent when Howell placed a couple of quarters inside the channels of the altar that are meant for communion cups. He asked everyone to bring quarters – only quarters. Later, he told them the coins were to feed the washing machines and dryers.

“Sometimes it’s the little things that make the greatest impact,” said Howell. “If we only opened our doors on Sunday, how much would we be missing?”

At first, Howell wasn’t sure how well the idea would go over at the church, or if they’d even raise enough money to assist at the laundry. People began donating and those channels filled up quickly, eventually totaling $600.

“It blessed us, blessed them, blessed the community, I feel,” said Mrs. Higdon. “We believe that God is in this, they were collecting quarters before we got in here.”

Higdon said the customers were very excited and couldn’t believe it at first, but when they realized that they really didn’t have to pay for their laundry, “it lit up their faces.”

“People think everything has a catch,” she said, “but this had no catch.”