Donovan Jones thanks Loads of Love volunteer Sarah Kindinger as she drops nine quarters into a dryer for him. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

Clean laundry shouldn’t be considered a luxury. But in homes without a washer and dryer — and there are plenty in Key West — that April-fresh scent costs money and time, both of which are in short supply for working families.

I’ve lived and worked in Key West for 25 years now, and for exactly one of those years, I had a washer and dryer inside my own apartment, no coins required. Our current complex on South Street has a convenient shared laundry room — four washers and four dryers — in the storage building next to the pool, about 30 yards from our back door. The price of a load is considerably cheaper than local laundromats and it’s easy to throw in a load or two and go back to my usual business. 

But it still requires quarters. And it still requires schlepping the laundry out the back door and down the pathway. So I still hate doing laundry, which is partly why I love the story I’m about to tell.

A group of volunteers from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Duval Street, back in 2022, launched a project called Loads of Love.

They spend a few evenings a month at local laundromats dropping quarters into washers and dryers for anyone using them that night.

I caught up recently with two of the volunteers, Sarah Kindinger and Tammi Hoback, who were busily feeding quarters into machines at the Habana Plaza laundromat for residents like Donovan Jones, a young guy in his 20s, and local woman Janet Gomez.

Jones and Gomez each had their own Ziploc bags of fresh quarters, carefully collected, counted and squirreled away, specifically for laundry day. The gratitude and surprise on their faces when they didn’t have to spend their own quarters was genuine and heartwarming.

“It’s from the church. The church wants to pay for your laundry,” Kindinger told them both as they loaded their clothes, speaking slowly in case they didn’t speak English. (They both did.)  Loads of Love volunteers have printed signs in four different languages that say, “Loads of Love: Prepare your washer, then give us a wave and we will put money in. Move clothes to the dryer, give us a wave and we will put money in.”

St. Paul’s, under the direction of Pastor Donna Mote, who likes to be called “Padre,” takes up collections for Loads of Love in the back of the church — in a Tide bottle.

She and Hoback have visited every laundromat in town since October 2022, when they started after Hurricane Ian flooded so many washers and dryers and soaked so many clothes.

They know how much one washer load costs at each place (it ranges from $2.75 to $8 for a giant, industrial-sized load) and how many minutes of drying time each quarter provides at each place. 

One or two nights a month, they’ll show up with rolls of quarters and some detergent to donate as well. They’re also known to give some free laundry advice.

“You don’t think about it, but some people from other countries have never used a washing machine and they don’t know how much detergent to use,” Kindinger said, adding that there are no laundromats on Stock Island or in Bahama Village, forcing many residents to schlep (ugh!) their laundry on bikes or in cars across town.

The Loads of Love budget is about $300 per night in quarters. 

It’s a relatively small investment in a simple idea, but it has some of the most immediate and obvious impacts that I witnessed firsthand last week.

While I still hate doing laundry, it did my heart good to see such a simple act making someone’s life easier. We need more of that in today’s world.To support Loads of Love or for more information, email or call the church office at 305-296-5142.

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.