Loads of Hope eases plight of those without power

Mobile programs provide free laundry service, device recharging to area residents

Staff Writer

 Maureen Bedard, of Eatontown, picks up a load of clean laundry on Nov. 4, which was washed by Tide Loads of Hope, a free mobile laundry service for residents affected by superstorm Sandy.  PHOTOS BY NICOLE ANTONUCCI Maureen Bedard, of Eatontown, picks up a load of clean laundry on Nov. 4, which was washed by Tide Loads of Hope, a free mobile laundry service for residents affected by superstorm Sandy. PHOTOS BY NICOLE ANTONUCCI EATONTOWN — Many residents left without power as a result of Sandy were concerned about the basics — having enough food, batteries, flashlights and candles to last until power was restored.

For Maureen Bedard of Eatontown and Jola Osborne of Colts Neck, the concern was having enough clean clothes to keep warm as temperatures began to drop.

So when the Tide Loads of Hope truck rolled into Eatontown and parked at the Lowe’s on Route 35, Bedard and Osborne breathed a sigh of relief.

Bedard dropped off clothes to be laundered on Saturday and when three bags of freshly washed laundry tied with a blue ribbon were returned to her on Sunday morning, a smile lit up her face.

“We have four dogs and for the first couple of days it has been really muddy with the dogs going in and out. We ran out of towels.” Bedard said. “This has been a real big help.”

It was six days after superstorm Sandy blew through New Jersey, felling trees, knocking down power lines and leaving millions of people in the dark.

While many had regained power, Bedard said that residents in her section of town had been told that power would not be restored for quite some time.

According to a JCP&L update on Nov. 5, approximately 1,000 people in Eatontown would not regain power until the end of the week.

With temperatures dropping, Bedard said she was thankful to have fresh, warm clothes.

“We have hot water so we are able to shower,” she said. “I didn’t have clean sweatshirts and it’s cold but now I have nice clean sweatshirts and nice clean, fluffy socks. This has been a godsend.”

Osborne, however, not only doesn’t have power, she also doesn’t have water and has had to travel to Shrewsbury to fill up water jugs just to flush the toilet.

While driving, she heard on the car radio that Tide Loads of Hope was in Eatontown and quickly made the trip to get some laundry washed.

“This is a great program,” Osborne said. “I can’t do laundry. Everyone is saying, rinse out a few things in the sink, but I can’t because I have no water.”

Osborne waited on line for two hours but said that once the truck opened, the line moved quickly.

Tide Loads of Hope is a mobile laundry program that was created to provide needed free laundry services to families affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Since then, the Loads of Hope truck, outfitted with 32 energy-efficient washers and dryers, has traveled across the country to areas affected by natural disasters.

Collectively, the Tide program has washed over 52,000 loads of laundry for more than 38,000 families affected by disaster since the program launched.

“Tide learned that the little, everyday things that people are missing like clean dry clothes can make a difference,” Erin Serrano, a spokeswoman at the Tide site said.

The Tide Loads of Hope truck arrived on Nov. 3 and is accepting one bag of laundry per family, per day.

According to Shane Grady, field manager, the program began operation at 8 a.m. on Nov. 3 with a line of cars already waiting to drop off laundry.

The stream of drop-offs continued throughout the day. By the end of the night, more than 15 palettes were piled with numbered bags of laundry.

“On our first day, we accepted 800 loads, roughly,” Grady said on Nov. 4.

“It was quite a day here.”

The next day, residents dropping off laundry were told that pick-up would take place on Nov. 9, and while some were discouraged, many left their clothes to be washed.

“Some people are discouraged when they hear the drop-off time of Friday. Then we show them the clothes at the back of the truck, nice and folded, nice and clean, and they can’t wait to come back on Friday,” he said.

“We have all of our machines running as fast as we can get them. We are probably doing 150 loads a day.”

Serrano said that many are dropping off a load one day and coming back the next day to drop off another load.

She added that emergency responders and relief workers are also bringing in laundry to be washed and dried.

According to Grady, people sign up at the drop-off table where they are given one bag to fill with laundry. The bag is numbered and is put in line.

There are 17 personnel manning the machines, washing, drying and folding the continuous stream of laundry.

Grady, who lives in Louisiana, is familiar with hurricanes, which is one of the reasons why he joined the Tide team only two months ago after Hurricane Isaac tore through LaPlace, La.

“I can sympathize. I have been in their situation so many times. I have had to strip down my house several times and take out all the drywall, spray it and de-mold it,” he said. “Just giving back and handing out the laundry has been a lot of fun.”

Grady is not the only one trying to give back. Local residents unaffected by the storm have been going around, collecting laundry.

Nancy Pietz, a teacher in Monmouth Beach, together with a school parent unaffected by the storm, went door-to-door to collect almost 200 bags of soiled, wet laundry from impacted residents.

“We logged in every load and will be returning them at the end of the week washed, dried, folded and clean,” Pietz said in an email.

In addition to the Tide Loads of Hope truck, a Duracell Power Relief Truck is stationed in the Lowe’s parking lot on Route 35 in Eatontown through Nov. 9, or longer if needed.

According to Lindsay Jambard, response coordinator for both initiatives, the truck provides free batteries and 30 lockers where people can plug in electronics to charge.

“They are secure locking stations so most of them fit up to the size of a laptop,” she said. “You can take the key with you so you can leave your stuff locked up in a secure place for as long as you need to charge, go shopping and come back.”

Eatontown resident Glen Stevens was using a locker to charge a cell phone and laptop.

“It’s unbelievable. Everybody is so helpful,” he said. “It’s so great that people are giving back.”