To volunteer is to offer oneself: time, heart, energy: to enrich a vision that uplifts us all. Volunteering is an action to strengthen community and cause. As a gardening term, a volunteer is a seed carried by a bird and the wind to an unplanned destination. It is a wild act of kindness committed by a finch. Sometimes a volunteer finds a place with the right amount of sunlight, enough water, air and space to root and bloom. When a volunteer finds a space like this, there’s no telling what magic will grow. A seed becomes a tree, becomes the shade for a garden, becomes the food within the community, becomes the health of the future.
Glynda found herself in Phoenix by way of an enormous silver bird. She thought she was moving to Arizona to buy a house with her partner, but when the relationship went south, she was left with two weeks to find housing in a state where she didn’t know anyone. For the first time in her sixty plus years on earth she had nowhere to go and no plan to get there. She thought she was going to be homeless and panicked without the support of a community.
Eventually, Glynda transitioned into an apartment that worked with her set of variables. The complex provided an on-site laundromat, but it was too expensive. There were several laundromats nearby, said Google and Yelp. Social Spin had five stars, so in walked Glynda.
Glynda’s whole face is a smile as she tells the writer about her first time visiting Social Spin.
“During my first foray I went in and got some change and the machine kept my money. It gave me some, but not all. There wasn’t an attendant, so I thought, let me come back tomorrow morning, so I did, and Christy was there. She was so friendly. She made me feel so comfortable at the time and we just got to chatting. I’m retired. I’m used to volunteering at the GLBT center back in Colorado. Christy mentioned something about volunteering and my ears perked up, I’ve been here ever since.”
Sometimes you volunteer for a person who has a vision that includes the entire community. You become folded into the process of realizing and revising the vision as it grows. Glynda is as permanent a fixture at Social Spin as I am. We’ve committed to showing up to help folx who are often forgotten. Our Free Wednesday Wash and Fold days are run by volunteers: either teams from organizations such as The Junior League of Phoenix or individuals like Glynda and our own in-house DJ Jack. Glynda and Jack support Social Spin by greeting guests and playing music during Free Wednesday Wash & Fold services.
Glynda reports, “I come from 9-12. We offer two free washes and two free drys. People come in and if they don’t know what’s going on, I explain the free washes. The only thing we ask from them is their name to track how many homeless people we are helping. I chat with them. A lot of them know my name.”
Imagine how it must feel when people come in for the first time. They may even think they’re getting punk’d when they take in the bright blue bubbles on the walls, bilingual signs and stocked bookshelves. Free snacks always make them do a double take. It almost seems like the space was intentionally designed to welcome and acknowledge people.
“Sometimes if you just show people you care it really makes a difference, so I ask about how they’re doing and are they keeping cool or just about their lives. Some come in here and it’s a sticky point to ask if someone’s homeless, but there’s no judgement, it’s just for statistical purposes to keep tack. They seem apologetic, I let them know I’m not judging at all, I’m just asking because there are resources here for them,” Glynda explains to the writer, who sits on me cross-legged listening.
“There are so many places you can volunteer for though, why do you return to Social Spin?” writer asks.
“Christy,” Glynda says and her eyes tear up.
“She’s a magnet, isn’t she?” her eyes tear up, too.
“She is. She has such a big heart. To see these people who have nothing, 2.50 is not a lot, but to them it’s a lot. To think I’m part of something of that nature touches me. Christy just makes you feel so warm and loved. Even when we’re just busy, busy, busy, she still takes the time to make you think you’re important, no matter what is going on. No matter what, I’ve got you. You know, all we’re looking for is some place to come to to feel safe.”
We all are, but especially the marginalized among us and as an LGBTQ woman of color, Glynda is used to living in those margins. Who would ever think the local laundromat would become that hub for so many people?
DJ Jack returns because he feels the same way about Social Spin: it’s a place he can belong to. He shows up with his Bluetooth speaker every second Wednesday of the month and takes music requests during free wash & fold time. He curates his own playlists at home: upbeat, something to make you dance while I free your blankets from dog hair and jostle the BO out of your t-shirt armpits.
DJ Jack found Social Spin while in pursuit of a new laundromat. He showed up while the volunteer crew helped remodel, so he arrived when it still felt and smelled like an old gym locker.
“Do you mind if I play music?” he asked Chisty. Soon, the volunteers were dancing to Rihanna and Prince while they transformed Social Spin into the bright, beautiful space it was destined to become.
The joy of fresh laundry is worthy of dance moves. DJ Jack asked Christy if he could come back to play music for other people while they washed and folded their own laundry.
“We decided on every second Wednesday of the month and Christy is even putting word out to other people telling them that I’m available if they want my services. I actually have an event coming up now because of it.”
In between tracks, DJ Jack helps customers bring in their clothes. “I just like being nice to people and helping them anyway I can,” he says. Glynda and Jack return to volunteer for Social Spin because it’s that type of seed in our community. It’s something you want to watch grow. It is the Moringa tree of businesses: every part of it functions on some wholesome level for a greater purpose. Its leaves are edible. Its pods purify water. It can be medicine and food. It doesn’t require a lot to grow, just the right conditions and support. Once it gets going, it will feed everyone.
M.D. Leto lives near the Lower Salt River with a rescue dog named Charlie, four chickens, her wife and several experimental gardens. She holds an MFA from Northern Arizona University and writes narratives to change the world. She is a frequent contributor to the Javelina Co blog and is sometimes invited to read her poetry and essays in public spaces.