Volunteer’s Perspective, written by M.D. Leto
When you sign-up for laundry services at Social Spin or sit down to wait on-site while your jammies are tumbling dry, you are choosing the best laundromat in Central Phoenix to support. Of course, dropping your dirty scrubs and aprons off at Practical Art on Monday and picking them up fresh-scented Thursday is convenient! It’s called Wash & Fold service. It is also called changing the world, one sock at a time. Founder/Owner, Christy Johnson Moore, may call it disrupting the industry, one quarter at a time.
What’s wrong with the laundromat industry? Nothing, if you are OK with locked up toilet paper in the bathrooms, dirty grout, rows of old, metal machines against dingy, gray walls. The sound of a sneaker in a dryer. Creepy, right? Don’t you want to spend your evening there, waiting for sheets to dry? When was the last time you went to the laundromat?
People rely on laundromats because they do not have access to personal washers and dryers. Low-income housing does not always provide access, or convenient access, to on-site laundry machines. Your grandmother’s quilt may be too big for your own washer. Some support laundromats for environmental reasons. No matter the reason you are there, it will take one-two hours to wash, dry and fold your laundry. What type of space do you prefer to wait in?
At Social Spin, Christy wants you to feel comfortable and connected. She considers her laundromat a community asset. She wants you to wash laundry in a space illuminated by brightly colored walls with neon blue and green soap bubbles popping up here and there. She wants you to enjoy the paintings children made and pressed onto the dryers. One sign reads: “Conversation (noun): Oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions or ideas.” Every sign on the wall is duplicated and mirrored in Spanish. A large portion of one wall is a chalkboard. Above it is an invitation to engage:
WE WANT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT…
Voter registration A Greener Planet Parenting Classes Tutoring
Health Care Checks Public Disability Access Job Training
Volunteering Foster Care Homeless Outreach
This chalkboard is a multi-functional tool Social Spin uses to address needs and provide resources. A response will follow in the form of action and education. Social Spin is a community partner on a mission to connect neighbors to neighbors and neighbors to resources they want and need. Another commitment is to work with opportunity youth by providing up to an 8 week on-site job training at the laundromat. This is made possible through a partnership between Social Spin and Jewish Family & Children Services.
If you Google “Social Spin,” you will come up with tons of videos of Christy Johnson Moore telling stories. One story is about her history in laundromats. One is about how she thought of the name “Social Spin.” In some, she is being interviewed by someone who was made a better leader by her mentorship. If you ask people how they know Christy, you will hear the word “leadership” a lot. You will also hear “social work” or “volunteer.” In fact, Social Spin was renovated through the labor of volunteers no doubt returning support to Christy for some past encounter in which she helped someone feel empowered, united, supported.
I went to see if Social Spin was living its story and to volunteer for their first Free Wash & Dry event on July 11. They offered customers 2 free loads of laundry, plus dry time, from 7:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. When I walked in at 7, Christy was sweating brow to neckline and pressing her weight against a washing machine, securing a latch and smiling, as usual. She set me to work helping Joe Chavira, an opportunity youth, put up a canopy to shade volunteers from C.A.S.E. (Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy) and South Phoenix Healthy Start. C.A.S.E. was there helping people register to vote. South Phoenix Healthy Start is a home visitation program for women who are pregnant and have children up to the age of two. They provide all sorts of classes and services pertaining to early childhood development.
My first task was to separate laundry dropped off by Mike Atanasio, founder of Arizona Friends of Homeless. A monsoon the night before had wet several totes and bags of donations left outside for Mike. We were going to wash, dry, separate and organize the clothes into bags easy for Mike to bring to the park the following day to provide homeless people with fresh, clean clothes.
Did I mention I brought my six-year-old nephew? He separated laundry, was a runner for quarters when one was needed, and loved on the dog outside the laundromat sleeping in the child’s seat of a grocery cart. He colored on the chalkboard and read from the assortment of books in the Social Spin library. Whenever he completed a pile ready for the washer, he brought it to Joe Chavira.
Joe has known Christy and her husband, Mitch, since he was 15-years-old because they volunteered to mentor him through the AASK program when he lived in a group home. Now, he’s recently adopted and a junior in high school.
When it was time to dry and sort clothes, Hanan Dema, was there to assist us. Hanan interns for Christy forty hours a week. She is a psychology student half-way through her Associate’s Degree at Gateway Community College. I asked what she likes about working with Christy.
“She has a master’s degree in social work, so I learn a lot about social work and community involvement. She takes me along to meetings in the community, so I’m learning about agencies. She gives me an understanding of what careers I can go into. I’ve noticed a lot of social workers with different degrees lead more communities and agencies.”
Later, while photographing Social Spin from the front, Pat Bennet walked up carrying paper bags. Pat volunteers with a group called Friends on the Street that serves 100-300 homeless people every Sunday at United UCC Church. She was there donating bagels for the event.
I watched the customers. No one complained when an anonymous woman parked her grocery cart out front and unloaded her plastic bags of clothes. She did not want to give me her name, but she told me she frequented three different laundromats within about a three-mile radius. Social Spin was her favorite because it wasn’t dingy. She felted respected when she was there. While her blanket dried, she read a book and ate bagels.
Social Spin has many plans as a Benefit Corporation focused on fostering human dignity and respect with every customer and community interaction. Live plants, lectures and workshops occupy the same space as Social Spin’s customers in an effort to be a model business and community partner. Most importantly, conversations spark and we all know what happens when people start talking. From word into action, action into transformation.
My favorite interview was with a customer, Linda Ramirez, who has done her laundry at the Social Spin location for two years, long before Christy took over the laundromat.
“How is it different since Christy took over?” I asked.
“Christy is such a nice lady. She’s not only the owner, she’s a friend to everyone in the community and loves all the people and makes everyone feel comfortable. She is here to listen to you. I’ve never seen a laundromat like this. You can read, the kids can play on the chalkboard or read books, you can find information over there on the wall. This lady has opened up her heart and is using it to help everyone. I don’t know if anyone else sees it,” she said, “But I do.”
At that moment, Christy danced from one end of the laundromat to the next to check the clothes in the dryer.
The thing about Social Spin is that, if you ask, you will receive any statistics, research, information you need to show the need for what is provided. People are more than that. You may not “need” a laundry service, but you need Social Spin in your community.