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Church members lighten customers’ loads

Ashlee Nugent, 20, of Stafford County goes to Hillcrest Coin Laundry on Lafayette Boulevard in Fredericksburg every week. She has a 7-month-old son named Cash at home and when he’s not outgrowing his clothes, he is getting them dirty.

With loads of laundry at Hillcrest costing between $2.75 and $5.75 per load to wash and 25 cents per minute to dry, her laundry bills add up quickly.

But on Saturday, her three loads of laundry were covered by the Ni River Community Church, whose members held their bimonthly “Laundry Love” program at Hillcrest.

The church members also provided her with laundry supplies and served her a hot dog, chips and a bottle of water for lunch.

“It’s nice to have the help,” Nugent said. “It’s also nice to have someone to talk to while I do laundry.”

Penny Traber, director of outreach, started the program last August after seeing a similar program while on a mission trip in Ohio.

“It’s a tangible way of showing God’s love,” Traber said.

The most recent Laundry Love, held April 13, offered $500 in laundry services to Hillcrest patrons. The money was raised through donations at the church.

The Ni River group originally intended to hold the event at a different coin laundry every other month, but stuck with Hillcrest because it was so welcoming.

Owner Tonia Lytle, 30, bought the laundry business in December 2011 and said Laundry Love has offered her a way to give back to the people who support the business.

She said it has also changed her spiritually.

Lytle was recently baptized at Salem Baptist in King George County.

“It’s an amazing experience,” she said about Laundry Love. “Every time they come, I grow spiritually.”

She said some of her customers get by on limited incomes, and Laundry Love helps with their finances.

Allen Wade, a 74-year-old Spotsylvania County resident, said he and his wife are on disability and come to Laundry Love each time the church members hold the event.

“It’s a great help,” he said.

He’s having surgery in May, and Ni River’s youth director, Sam Law, asked him to promise to come to the next event so she can make sure he is OK.

Law said Hillcrest was not what she expected from a coin laundry.

“It’s usually boring waiting for laundry,” she said. “But we see people like Allen every time, and it’s nice to be a friendly face.”

Most of the volunteers are part of the church’s youth programs.

Katie Habbery, a 15-year-old sophomore at Riverbend High School, has been volunteering at the event since it was first held.

She held quarters to pay for laundry during the recent event and said serving people in a tangible way, like doing laundry, is important.

She and some of the other girls told Wade they would pray for him.

Last Saturday’s event was the first Laundry Love experience for Megan Greenhalgh, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Spotsylvania Middle School.

She said she is trying to get more involved and thought, “Why not? It feels good to help people.”

Her mother, Layla Greenhalgh, said, “I love that she has gotten involved with Ni River. Eight months ago, she never would have thought to do something like this.”

Andrew Washington, 59, and Shirley Branham, 50, both of Fredericksburg, are also regulars at Hillcrest.

“It’s nice,” they said about the event, while loading laundry into a machine. “It’s a good day when you come out and people are doing something to help people.”

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976