On my first visit with the patient I noticed a number of black garbage bags stacked along the walls of her small apartment. The apartment was immaculately clean and organized, so the garbage bags seemed very much out of place. On the second visit I asked what the bags contained. Our patient explained that the bags were filled with dirty laundry. She shared that since she was unable to get out any longer, she was unable to go to the Laundromat to get her clothes washed and dried. She had no relatives living nearby and didn’t feel she could ask neighbors to help. Without being asked, she explained that what she was doing was ordering new clothes on a regular basis and then placing her worn clothes in the garbage bags.

I asked if she would like for me to arrange to get the clothes washed. She seemed elated and reported that she had a bucket of quarters we could use at the Laundromat.

I realized that we would need help with this expedition and a fellow volunteer, a lady, came to assist in the endeavor. I had checked with the local Laundromat and they suggested we come early in the morning if we needed to use a large number of the washers and driers, before the regular customers arrived. By previous arrangement, we arrived very early in the morning to pick up the bags of laundry. Our patient was up and ready to go. Even though she was quite frail, she was adamant that she needed to supervise the activity. We hauled 17 bags of laundry out of her apartment, and then she revealed that there were several more bags stored in her car downstairs. With a total of 23 bags, we headed to the Laundromat. (Thankfully, I was driving a minivan!)

We used every available washer in the facility and then every available dryer. After four hours, the clothes were dry and regular customers were beginning to arrive. We rushed to sort and fold the clothing. Our feisty “supervisor” (our patient), decided that I, as a man, needed instruction on how to fold ladies’ garments. She observed, “You really don’t know how to fold ladies’ unmentionables, do you?” To the delight of my fellow volunteer, I was given a thorough tutorial in the fine art of folding ladies clothing.

On the way back to her apartment we detoured to get a milkshake in celebration of a successful expedition. One thing is certain: I now know how to fold ladies clothing.

By Steve B., volunteer