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Legion Auxiliary launches clean clothes initiative

December 16, 2015
By CHUCK?BALLARO (news@breezenewspapers.com) , North Fort Myers Neighbor

In Southwest Florida there are too many people who live in wooded areas, with no way to wash their clothes on their own.

The American Legion Post 336 Ladies Auxiliary is trying to help them with that problem, going out into the community to collect clothes for washing every Thursday morning from 8 to 10 a.m. at the new North Fort Myers Laundromat on Pondella Road.

With the help of other veterans, those without homes themselves and the laundromat staff, the auxiliary is able to get clean clothes to those who are homeless and give them an opportunity to perhaps get back to a "normal" life.

Article Photos

The American Legion Post 336 Ladies Auxiliary with the volunteers who work with them washing clothes at the North Fort Myers Laundromat on Thursday for individuals who are homeless.

CHUCK?BALLARO

Auxiliary president Dee Shafer and treasurer Diann Dircz have done the program for three years after learning about someone in Melbourne who was doing the same thing.

"The girl who started it up there convinced me to start it down here," Dircz said. "It did and it's been growing ever since. And we have a bunch of people who used to come but no longer because they got back on their feet."

Simply put, the homeless give them their laundry and the auxiliary provides the money for soap, dryer sheets and make sure they have clean clothes.

"It's so they can get a job and have some self-respect in society," Shafer said. "We get between 15 and upwards of 28 people per week who come in. We get homeless veterans and homeless people and their families."

Many veterans have been able to secure housing, get jobs and more from this service. They also give back through money or volunteering as thanks for the auxiliary.

Stephanie Hall, a veteran, said the auxiliary does more than laundry, which is why she's working to become a member.

"It's heartwarming to be able to get assistance and give it back. These ladies do a lot of work for the veterans that doesn't get talked about. Without them, I would be a lot worse off," Hall said.

Harry Williams Clark, a Vietnam veteran, said the women have helped him do his own laundry, having lost an arm following a stroke.

"When I come here, they help me load it and unload it. They take really good care of me," Clark said. "It's a great thing for them to do for us because it helps my wife and kids as much as myself."

Shafer said her favorite story is about a veteran who was sick and lost his papers to go to the VA clinic.

"I told him to go online to get them and he said 'There are no computers in the woods.' I told him to go to the library and he said they didn't want him there because he stunk," Shafer said.

After Shafer helped him, the veteran returned, having gotten his papers and appointment with the VA, simply because they washed his clothes.

The program costs about $3,000 annually, with the laundromat also donating funds. Those who are homeless come up with their share of the costs by doing monthly car washes and yard sales at the unit. The auxiliary gets help from the Six Lakes community while donating $600 of its own money every year, Shafer said.

Tonya Cooper, who works at the laundromat, said they try to help the veterans as best they can, even if it means folding clothes.

"I love being able to help. That's one of the things I like about it. The veterans always have good stories," Cooper said. "They're all friendly, never have a problem. We have fun on Thursday."

 
 

 

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