BILLINGS — On Saturday, members of the Junior League of Billings ensured everyone who stopped by BYO Laundry in Billings from the hours of 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. had their clothes washed and dried for free, courtesy of the women's community service group.
"Laundry is something that a lot of us take for granted. We do our laundry and we go about our day. For a lot of people in our community, being able to do laundry is often a choice between, do I pay for laundry, or do I pay for groceries?", said Ashley Braaten, Junior League of Billings member.
Members of the Junior League of Billings have been throwing the free laundry day for seven years. On the fourth Saturday of every month, Junior League members set up shop at BYO Laundry, armed with rolls of quarters, soap and dryer sheets.
On an average Saturday, Junior League members put between $500 to $700 in quarters into the washers and dryers and help about 100 people pay for their wash.
The idea for the event was sparked after members of the group were looking for a service project and saw a gap in the market.
"We looked out to the Billings community to find services that were needed, but weren’t being offered. Laundry came onto our radar. It’s something that helps people get a leg up at work or at school to get back on their feet," said Elizabeth Russell a four-year member of the Junior League.
With the success of free laundry other Montana chapters of the Junior League took notice and started up the event in Helena and Great Falls.
"It's really rewarding to see it take off and to see more people come and utilize it. It's really awesome to see it spread too. It's had such a great impact in Billings and we're really excited that people in Helena and Great Falls can also take advantage of an event like this," Russell said.
With group gathering made tough in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Russell said it was hard for Junior League members to meet, plan, or go to volunteer opportunities.
"A lot of spaces and events are limiting the amount of people at those events. So we’ve limited volunteers, used masks for sure and trying to have volunteer opportunities where people can donate their time or their materials from home as well," Russell said.
The free laundry day was canceled for about three months in the spring of 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, but since then, people have been utilizing the service.
“It definitely wasn’t attended as much at first, especially in the summer months, but as people are getting more comfortable and getting vaccinated we’re seeing attendance go up again," Russell said.
The free laundry day is made possible by grants and partnerships with community businesses. To learn more about the Junior League of Billings, visit the group's Facebook page by clicking here.