TREASURE COAST - Sunshine Laundry Center in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce has been quietly giving back to the community for years.
In January, Sunshine Laundry presented United Against Poverty (UP) with a check for $3,466 as part of the company’s Community Washer and Dryer program, in which a portion of the proceeds from one washing machine is donated to a local nonprofit each quarter.
In December, Sunshine Laundry posted notices on Facebook and in their business stating “Please use our Community Washer. The more uses, the more we donate to a local charity. Look for the designated washer and dryer on your next visit, and we will donate 25 percent of the revenue from those two machines. Help us max out the check.”
Of the seven Sunshine Laundry Center locations on the Treasure Coast, the Fort Pierce and Vero Beach sites are the only ones offering these special machines.
“Tom is everything that is good about local businesses,” said Jeff Francisco, Development Director for United Against Poverty.
“Tom Rhodes has been very generous in his efforts to help United Against Poverty attain its means, helping people UP out of poverty,” added UP Development Admin. Colette O'Neill.
This is by no means the first time Sunshine Laundry has donated to the community. In Oct. they raised $1,400 for UP. In Nov., they raised $2,300.
Previous donations have included $2,000 to the St. Lucie County Rec. Dept. to help 40 people learn to swim, plus additional donations to Habitat for Humanity.
“Join us next quarter to help raise funds for Boys & Girls Club,” the company posted in mid-January.
Executive Director Canieria Gardner of UP St. Lucie County said “The individuals that we serve are struggling with paying their light bill, their rent, and other basic necessities. A program like this is so beneficial because it lightens that load so that they are able to allocate their funds to necessities.”
In addition to dedicating a portion of proceeds from specific machines to charity, Sunshine Laundry helps by offering a Bubble Card to graduates of UP STEP (Success Training for Employment Program). The Bubble Card entitles program graduates to a 50 percent discount on laundry services for one year.
“I understand getting out of poverty takes a while,” Mr. Rhodes said. “We hope this will help lift people out of that situation.”
“During the job interview process, it's important to dress for success, and most struggling families living in poverty don't have access to a washer or dryer,” said Mr. Francisco. “Food, housing, and other basic needs take priority over clean laundry, making it impossible for families to divert their limited resources to the cost of washing clothing at a laundry mat.”
“It's such a natural partnership,” added Mr. Francisco. “These funds support programs that help people to lift themselves and their families up and out of the cycle of poverty to economic self-sufficiency.”
Sunshine Laundry was drawn to support UP because “We have a common customer base,” Mr. Rhodes said. “Not all of our customers walk through the UP facility, but it's the same demographic. My desire to help others aligns with UP's mission to give a hand up. I was born and raised in Vero Beach, so I love this community, and I realize that we're all woven together. We're all one big family at the end of the day. If my brother's hurting then I want to help my brother in some way.”
Mr. Rhodes said he was inspired to increase his charitable giving after attending a church service. “I decided to do this year round and added a dryer in the mix. Our regular customers ask for these machines, knowing they are helping others just by doing their laundry.”
United Against Poverty IRC is located at 2746 US Hwy 1, Vero Beach. For more information, visit www.UpIRC.org.
Sunshine Laundry is located at 2020 6th Ave., Vero Beach and 2504 South US 1, Fort Pierce.