This group is bringing clean clothes to anyone who needs them, one laundromat at a time.

It all started with a man named T-Bone and a simple desire.

His name was Eric, but he was T-Bone to the people he knew and liked. Greg Russinger met him in 2003, when he and his friends were working with under-resourced individuals and families in Ventura, California.


Russinger remembers asking T-Bone one question: "What would it look like for us to come alongside your life in a way that would matter to you specifically?"

"He just said 'If I had clean clothes, I think people would treat me as a human being,'" Russinger recalls.

This lack of clean clothes is sadly all too common. According to a 2013 survey, up to 21 percent of families that qualify as low-income forego household necessities such as laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid in order to get food on the table. And that number is even higher among the homeless population.

The emotional toll this takes on people is only part of the problem. There are also health risks to not washing clothes and bedding. All that combined makes people who already have very little feel even less than.

T-Bone's basic desire lit a fire under Russinger and his friends.

"That very simple statement of desiring worth, wanting people to see him as a dignified human being, it really kinda set [events into motion]," says Russinger.

So Russinger and his friends partnered with a local laundromat. They took over the space once a month and paid for everyone's laundry. But providing clean clothes to those in need was only the beginning.

Think about the last time you went to the laundromat. It takes a few minutes to get change, put your clothes in the machine, add the detergent and hit the "wash" button. After that, all you've got is time, which gives you plenty of chances to connect with the people around you.

"Relationships, conversations, all kinds of things get stirred and spurred," says Russinger. Russinger and his friends found that the same people came back every time they took over the laundromat. They started bringing friends and family, and forming long-lasting relationships.

"There are two places where you can go to still experience the world, and that's either a post office or a laundromat," explains Russinger. "Diverse cultures, diverse histories, diverse peoples."

Soon, Russinger's initiative had a name: Laundry Love. And the organization had a mission to occupy as many laundromats as it could manage.

Today, 16 years since Russinger's conversation with T-Bone, Laundry Love hosts events at 325 locations across America.

"We go alongside people," says Russinger. "We help them find jobs, housing or pro-bono lawyers for people that are undocumented to find avenues of documentation. We're working to lessen the fear and anxiety that seems to be a part of our political culture. We're helping tutor children inside these spaces."

The list goes on and on. The more ingrained that Laundry Love becomes in a community, the more other businesses become involved, creating a support network that the people who need it never thought possible.

In Huntington Beach, for example, laundry night has been happening at Beach Coin Laundry for more than five years. The barber shop next to the laundromat offers free haircuts and shaves at the same time. Food is provided by members of the community and local food trucks.

The movement is transforming thousands upon thousands of lives a year.

What's most important, Russinger says, is that people who take advantage of Laundry Love feel cared for — they feel like they have an opportunity to be seen and supported in reaching their goals. They feel connected and involved in their community. They come to get their clothes clean, and they leave with a brighter outlook on their future.

When these people get to a better place, they come back to the initiative as volunteers, empowering others to get the help that they need.

If you're wondering what you can do to help your community transform in a similar way, start by asking someone in need what would make their life a little easier.

Many of us wonder how we can help others, but that wondering doesn't always lead to action. If you're truly ready to make a difference in the lives of those who live around you, Russinger says that starting a Laundry Love campaign at a local laundromat or volunteering your time, skills, or services with an already established group is an important way to transform lives. Especially your own.

"That's the gift. It's not about what we do for whoever the other is, it's how the other actually allows you to see yourself clearer. That's the transforming moment, right."

"The best thing we can give to people is our own transforming selves, and that's so important. And I think people offer that gift back to us."

Clorox believes clean has the power to transforms lives, which is why they've partnered with Upworthy to promote those same traits in people, actions and ideas. Cleaning up and transformation are important aspects of many of our social good stories. Check out the rest in the campaign to read more.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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