Tide Loads of Hope helps storm victims with laundry

Katherine Martin

If you’re driving down McFarland Boulevard, you can’t miss the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundromat and relief center parked in front of University Mall.

The staff of eight workers and three managers has been working 12 hour shifts full of non-stop laundry for a little over a week since a tornado touched down in Tuscaloosa, leaving hundreds of families without homes and unable to do their own laundry.

Nick Lastrina, a member of the Tide Loads of Hope staff, has been working in Tuscaloosa since the truck equipped with 32 energy-efficient washers and dryers arrived.

This week is Lastrina’s third week working with Tide Loads of Hope. Previously, he worked in Winsor, N.C. and Fayetteville, N.C.

“It’s a small way we can really help that ends up meaning a lot to disaster victims,” Lastrina said. “The little things like putting on a new clean shirt after a week of wearing the same stuff can help in the biggest way.”

On average, Lastrina said the team washes, dries and folds 175 to 200 bags of laundry per day, but sometimes they’ve done 300 to 350 loads.

Lastrina said each family can bring in two loads of laundry a day, but can come back the next day. When the items are dropped off, they are placed in a white laundry bag to be washed. Fresh laundry is ready the next day.

Chalyse Stancil, a UA student, started working with the program on May 2. Stancil said working with Tide Loads of Hope was a great experience.

“I knew that Tide Loads of Hope was a huge deal,” Stancil said, “everyone was coming out taking pictures and stuff, but it’s really cool to actually be a part of it.”

On Mother’s Day, Stancil said a woman came up to her and didn’t have any detergent and told her she’d come back and do her laundry when she found some.

“I was like, no we provide the detergent and we wash and dry your clothes and fold and package them for you and I gave her a carnation for Mother’s Day and she broke down in tears,” she said.

Autumn White, another member of the Tide Loads of Hope team, said she likes working because it goes to a great cause.

“I think everyone in Alabama should help their neighbors and really devote time,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but obviously it’s worth it.”

White said a lot people didn’t realize that Tide Loads of Hope was real until they saw the orange truck for themselves.

“You see people bring in their stuff and they say, ‘y’all fold it too?” she said. “They don’t expect the full service and they don’t expect it to be free.”

Tide Loads of Hope has teamed up with Duracell and the Red Cross to also provide the Recharge, Reconnect, Recover center complete with free WiFi, televisions and a bulletin board, Lastrina said.

“Obviously, a lot of peoples’ computers were lost, their televisions were lost, they don’t have a radio anymore, so they can come in there and we have a lounge area where you can watch the news, update your Facebook or whatever and reach out to people who have previously been worried about you because you had no way to connect to them,” he said.

As of today, the program will be pulling out of Tuscaloosa on Thursday, May 12, Lastina said.

The program chooses a location based on where disaster strikes, according to the Tide Loads of Hope website.

Tide Loads of Hope began after Hurricane Katrina stuck New Orleans in 2005 to provide laundry services for those affected by disasters, the site stated. Currently, more than 34,000 loads of laundry have been cleaned for victims.