Laundry Matters & Loving America Street

When you walk into Laundry Matters located at 51 Reid Street in downtown Charleston, you can see the love that has been put into this neighborhood asset by local nonprofit Loving America Street. Bible verses are painted on the walls, there is free coffee and Wi-Fi and people from all walks of life are present. Founded by College of Charleston graduate Samantha Sammis, the mission of Loving America Street “started with a simple challenge to invest in the Eastside of Charleston, SC.”
Loving America Street is an organization committed to asset-based community development. In the past six years, it has instilled pride and a sense of community in neighborhood residents via weekly community dinners held at 90 Columbus Street, in the form of bible studies, basketball games every Friday at Mall Park and seasonal cookouts on America Street. Its newest venture, Laundry Matters, speaks to Lowcountry Unity Fund’s mission to address structural racism by giving Eastside residents access to a simple asset: clean laundry.
When offered a lease on the old neighborhood laundromat by an entrepreneurial neighbor, Samantha’s first answer was no. But when she realized the sustainable impact that could be felt by community residents with access to this asset, her mind was set. A lack of access to clean laundry can lead to difficulty finding employment as well as children being ostracized in schools. Reducing this need by taking advantage of community assets – in this case, an existing laundromat in disrepair – has reduced the opportunity gap felt by residents of the Eastside and disrupted the cycle of structural racism affecting this community.
Loving America Street’s team of volunteers raised $50,000 in four months prior to moving into the space in May of 2015. This funding covered initial repairs to the asbestos-ridden structure, as well as the purchase of six washers and four new dryers. After fundraising and moving into 51 Reid Street, new washers and dryers were installed within a week, and Laundry Matters made its first dollar of profit seven months into this venture. The last time some of our team members saw Samantha, she was in the middle of repairing a washer with the help of instructions read off of a google search.
Lowcountry Unity Fund’s Mini Grant will contribute to funding for repairs on the building, which was saved from development by Loving America Street’s investment; as well as back computer classes offered at Laundry Matters with Women in Tech’s Valerie Sessions – Chair of the Computer Science Department at Charleston Southern University. These classes are now being taught on a monthly basis at Laundry Matters and provide accessible tech training to African American women and children. Tablets and computers are used by children as young as four years old, and future opportunities are provided by job and social skills training during these courses. The more clientele received at Laundry Matters, the closer Loving America Street will be to achieving its long-term goal of purchasing the building in which they are located and hiring two full-time Eastside residents to staff the laundromat. Learn more about Loving America Street and Laundry Matters at www.lovingamericastreet.org.

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