COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — Gratitude and a prayer. It's how Deacon Gary Darress starts every Monday morning at Westside Laundry in Colorado Springs.
"Heavenly Father thank you for this day we ask that you unite us in this community," Darress prayed.
For the last year and a half his church, St. Michael's Episcopal, has covered the costs for anyone who shows up to do their laundry, no questions asked. It's an idea Darress had after more than three decades as a police officer in Colorado Springs.
"During the conversations with the homeless I found out three things that they needed at the very minimum: a place to shower, a place to secure their belongings, and a place to do laundry," Darress said.
Darress and church rector Matt Holcombe knew they could take care of one of those needs. They came across a national non-profit online called Laundry Love and decided to partner with them to find out how to get it done.
"This gives us a chance to walk beside our neighbors and see people who often don’t want to be seen," Holcombe said.
Holcombe said the hardest part was finding a laundromat that would host them every Monday morning for three hours.
"We heard "no" a lot," said Holcombe. "Westside Laundry was one of the only places that said, 'You know what, we’d love to partner with you.' "
"Gary is so delightful and what he puts on is just amazing how they choreograph everything," said Westside Laundry owner Lori Houser. "They take over and that’s okay with me."
"I’ve been out here three years, I’m ready to go back inside," said Amy Goldsbury.
Goldsbury says the program gives her and other homeless people dignity.
'"It’s self-worth, self-respect," said Goldsbury. "You feel better with clean clothes, you feel better with a shower, you feel human, you feel downright human."
Ramona Bustos has been in and out of homelessness for the last 6 years.
"It gives you a chance to want to go out there and try to get a job and feel better about yourself and feel like you have a sufficient well-being," Bustos said.
Twenty-eight-year-old mom of two Mikayla Parish and her husband, who has PTSD and substance abuse issues, have been homeless for three years.
"We’ve bounced anywhere from camping to living out of our car," Parish said. "We were at a family shelter for Family Promise but that one shut down."
Right now they live in a motel and say every dollar saved makes a big difference.
"We go to the laundry a lot," Parish said. "It saves us at least eight dollars a week on laundry."
But it's more than just saving money, it's giving hope and love to a community struggling to get by.
"They make a big difference this church has made a huge huge difference to all of us out here who need help," Goldsbury said. "They overlook anything and everything bad. They're a true church, a true people of God."
There are several Laundry Love locations in southern Colorado. Click here to find the locations.
The church helps pay for about 6,000 loads of laundry a year at a cost of more than $13,000 dollars. The church pays for it with donations from its members and help from other non-profit organizations like Westside Cares. They also have volunteers who show up every week to help.
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