Pop-Up Neighbor Event Made SuperMatt the Happiest Laundromat in the World

The Giving Coast

Photo courtesy of SCGLR and The Patterson Foundation.

When most people think of laundromats, they generally think of bleak, dreary places filled with people who would rather be anywhere else, doing anything but laundry. This was not the case when on the morning of Monday, December 16 at the SuperMatt Laundromat in Port Charlotte. The laundromat filled with families and buzzed with excitement. Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) and the United Way of Charlotte County teamed up to host a ‘Pop-Up Neighbor’ event for the holiday season. Pop-Up Neighbor events provide a unique opportunity for volunteers of nonprofits to make connections directly with individuals of the community in an unexpected locale. Customers came in unknowingly to do laundry, and were pleasantly surprised to find their cost of laundry was alleviated. For three hours, everyone who walked into the laundromat had his or her laundry fees paid for thanks to the generosity of Sarasota nonprofit, The Patterson Foundation. 

Meanwhile, volunteers set up a bookshelf and tables stocked with a bundle of books to create a reading area for the kids to be read to by “celebrity readers” and were able to take the books home with them after. As the adults socialized and turned a mundane chore into a cheerful affair, a buffet of donuts, coffee, chips and sandwiches were provided to munch on while clothing tumble dried. In addition, laundry detergent, stain removers, bleach, and fabric softeners of every brand imaginable were provided for people to utilize. 

“When The Patterson Foundation says laundry is free, they mean free,” quips Stacy Sternberg of the Patterson Foundation who was tasked with holding one of the laundry cards to swipe customers’ payments as they started a load. By the end of the event, SCGLR and The Patterson Foundation paid for 287 loads of laundry and impacted 33 familiesnot only surprised, but incredibly thankful. 

“I was struck by what a financial burden laundry could be for some,” Sternberg says, “One woman teared up as I swiped her final load of laundry. She planned on spending at least $60 cleaning her family's clothes and didn't know how she was going to pay for next week's groceries, but now that stress was gone.” The more she swiped, the more she heard how this relatively small gesture of kindness was making a significant impact on people's lives. 

“Though it looked and smelled like every other laundromat in the world, the contagious generosity that filled the SuperMatt was unique,” Sternberg says. “I witnessed something I'd never seen at a laundromat before—people helping each other, sharing their stories, and learning about the importance of reading for young children. Patrons of all ages assisted in unloading dryers and delivering clean laundry out to cars. People were chatting, eating sandwiches, perusing books, and surpassing all of my laundromat expectations.” 

Photo courtesy of SCGLR and The Patterson Foundation.

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