Clean living: More nights added as word spreads about Rogersville Laundry Ministry

Jeff Bobo • Feb 26, 2018 at 12:56 PM
ROGERSVILLE — Jesus instructed his disciples to wash one another’s feet, and although the Rogersville Laundry Ministry (RLM) isn’t quite there yet, it is helping local residents wash their socks — and their underwear, linen, shirts and trousers.

The RLM free laundry night was founded in August of 2016 by the ladies at the First Christian Church in Rogersville.

They originally offered free laundry on the second Thursday of each month from 5-7 p.m. at the West Rogersville Coin Laundry (WRCL) across from Hawkins County Memorial Hospital.

RLM co-founder Dawnel Newhouse told the Times News that the ministry started slowly but grew steadily thanks to word of mouth and its Facebook page.

Now on that second Thursday, organizers sometimes have a line two and three deep for a washer. Newhouse estimates that an average of 50 people are served per event, but the record is 78.

Laundry ministry grows to three nights per month

On Thursday, organizers expanded the RLM to two nights per month thanks to the ladies from Burem Missionary Baptist Church, who will be hosting an event on the fourth Thursday each month at WRCL.

The program is growing even further next month when the RLM branches out to the other side of town.

Beginning in March, the ladies from First Christian Church will begin hosting another free laundry from 5-7 p.m. on the third Thursday each month at Dirty Dudz Laundry at the corner of Warrior Street and East Main Street.

Attendance exceeds expectations

Newhouse said one of her fellow church members had heard about a similar ministry in Knoxville, and they decided it was something that might work in Rogersville as well.

They had no idea how popular it would become.

“We didn’t know exactly what the demand was,” Newhouse said. “Our church has a slogan. It’s ‘Loving people to Jesus,’ and as Christians we need to help whenever we can. When we first began the ministry, it was difficult to get people in. We’d be sitting here and I’d be posting on Facebook, ‘There’s no waiting. Come right now.’ 

“Now, we have two and three people deep waiting for a washer and a dryer at any given time.”

RML provides all the quarters for the machines up to $10 per household as well as detergent, bleach, fabric softener and dryer sheets.

Who needs the ministry most

April Holt of Rogersville regularly attends the second Thursday RLM, and after reading on Facebook about the ministry expanding to the fourth Thursday, she decided to take advantage of that night as well.

“Some people who live in housing projects, they can’t really afford to wash their laundry all the time, like the elderly,” Holt said. “So, I think it’s a good thing.”

The RLM is free and open to anyone, but Newhouse has observed that it’s literally a godsend to many people in need.

“We have everyone from the elderly who have been doing laundry in their bathtub with dish soap to young parents with kids,” Newhouse said. “I was also approached by the Family Resource Center for adults who have aged out of the foster care system and don’t know anything about doing laundry. We’ve encouraged them to send them here. We will help them, show how to separate laundry, how much soap to put in and walk them through the process.”

The goal is four nights per month

With the recent expansions, the ministry will be providing free laundry three Thursdays each month, but Newhouse is hoping someone will step in and fill the gap on the first Thursday of the month as well.

Organizers have the money. They just need volunteers willing to work two hours that night.

The RLM was recently enveloped by the Four Square, Inc. nonprofit Christian organization which oversees a variety of programs such as the annual free Thanksgiving dinner, free prom dress giveaway and other People Loving People programs in Rogersville and Hawkins County.

Being part of that nonprofit now allows all donations to the RLM to be tax deductible.

Anyone interested in making a donation or volunteering time to the RLM should contact Newhouse by email at newhouseds@hotmail.com or by phone at (937) 661-5706.