Day after day, we helped drag treasured family possessions outside into wet, rancid piles on the curb. At times, the piles were over 10 feet tall, consisting of couches, pots and pans, picture albums, children’s toys and family heirlooms. A lifetime of memories and acquired things, destroyed in a matter of hours by the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey.
In the early stages, our church’s disaster response team focused on three main areas of support: homes, food and laundry. Before the storm, I would have laughed if you had told me that clean clothes were just as important as food when it comes to healing broken hearts. As I stood with my sobbing friend on her front lawn surrounded by the remains of what was once the first floor of her home, it was then when I understood. There is comfort in the familiar. When your world is turned upside down, putting on your clean clothes helps you feel grounded again. When everything around you feels dirty and contaminated, knowing that your child’s favorite stuffed animal has been returned to him clean and fresh – well, that’s a gift that touches the soul.
So, the Laundry Brigade was born. We put out the call for volunteers and over 150 women answered. These women knew the healing power of a clean, soft blanket. We were organized like a fire department, when a call came in for laundry, teams were dispatched based on geographic location and often arrived on site within the hour. Armed with gloves and trash bags, our team had four simple guidelines:
- Prepare to give hugs and love on these families. Just showing up is a big deal to them.
- If they want us to try to clean it, we’ll clean it. Nothing is too wet or too dirty.
- Launder items with the same care and attention you would if they were your own. No judgment.
- Contact the family a few days after you return the clean items to see if they have more laundry. Offer to help before they have to ask.
We delivered love, one clean laundry load at a time. In the first three weeks, our team washed over 2,000 loads of laundry. We used our own supplies, drove into unfamiliar neighborhoods, and hugged and cried with complete strangers. We washed clothes, blankets, towels, curtains, stuffed animals, even a wedding dress. In those moments, we knew we were the hands and feet of Jesus for people crying out for mercy. We didn’t have special training or equipment. We weren’t rebuilding houses or giving away money. We simply showed up and tried to reflect a sliver of God’s love and compassion to our neighbors. One laundry load at a time.
Stacey Morgan has been a MOPS Member for 14 years, and is currently the Area Coach for South Texas. She is married to a NASA astronaut and together they have four children.