Volunteers help homeless do laundry

Every second Wednesday of the month in Huntington Beach, the homeless in the city gather at a laundromat at Beach Boulevard and Garfield Avenue to wash their laundry, get a fresh hot meal and socialize.

Laundry Love HB seems to truly be a labor of love. It was organized by Christian Kassoff, his wife, Shannon, and volunteers from the Costa Mesa-based faith community Thom's and relies on donations.

Before a recent Wednesday night event got underway, Shannon Kassoff gathered the volunteers around a table in the center of Beach Coin Laundry and gave them a rundown on what was going to happen.

She instructed volunteers on how much detergent to use and how to interact with people who may be sensitive about their clothing.

"There's been a couple of people who don't want you touching their laundry," said Pam Mazoue, a volunteer from Brentwood. "We'll watch them load it, but we make sure we're keeping track of who has what so that nothing gets lost."

Once Shannon Kassoff assigned people to their stations and handed out bags of quarters, everyone working that night held hands, bowed their heads and said a prayer before loading the first washer.

"We started doing this in January 2012," said Christian. "We got the laundromat owner's permission, and we asked them what their slowest night was and we'll get all the machines moving all night."

Christian Kassoff said it costs around $380 to run all the machines from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and pay for food. The Kassoffs receive donations from those in their faith group and through their website.

"I do it because I love my community," Shannon said. "It is a simple thing, but people are so extremely grateful and appreciative."

Being part of the Thom's faith community, the Kassoffs picked up an "act first, preach later" kind of mentality. Christian said it's more effective to help people first instead of talking to them about faith and the important role it can play in their lives.

"I try not to worry month to month about where the money is going to come from because it always comes," Shannon said. "I love doing this. I hate that the need is there, but I'm glad to be of service and I'm going to keep doing this until the need is no longer there."

This recent Wednesday was considered an average night, with about 10 homeless families lined up outside the laundromat.

Bonny Cleland waited patiently in line, chatting with a volunteer to pass the time. She has been homeless since 1988 and attending the event since it began. She continues to go to Laundry Love because the organization won't turn her or anyone else away.

"They're wonderful people and help everyone that comes," Cleland said. "They ask no questions and it's a wonderful thing."

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