The Washateria Revamps Community Closet Ministry

Carol Oakleaf, left, and Lori Lovelace show the donation can for clothing to the Fort Scott Community Closet which is located in the Fort Scott Washateria in this 2019 photo.
Carol Oakleaf and Lori Lovelace, owners of Fort Scott Washateria, 501 S. National Avenue, started the Fort Scott Community Closet when they opened the laundromat in September 2019.
Recently they have been revamping their clothes-give-away operations to be more accessible to the people of Fort Scott.
“After Saturday, Jan 29th, we will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday,” Lovelace said. “Those interested in finding clothing or household linens and bedding can sign in at the laundromat front desk and will be able to go into the closet and pick out needed items.”
“We will have bags at the front desk to put items in after sign out,” she said. “As always, our items are donated by the people of Fort Scott and are available to all in need.”
“We will be open on Saturday, Jan 29th as we are finishing up the retooling and welcome all who wish to come by,” Lovelace said. “We have a good selection of coats and cold weather items as well as clothing and bedding.”
“Thank you to all of the people who have donated,” Lovelace said.
“We started the Community Closet when we opened the Washateria in September 2019 because there was limited availability for obtaining donated clothing for folks since Beacon( a local helping agency) had ceased taking clothing donations,” she said.  “We thought that a laundromat was a logical place, as we wash the clothes and we have a large outreach within the community.”
Fort Scott Washateria, 501 S. National Avenue. 2019
The clothes and bedding are free to those in need.

Then In March 2020, the  COVID-19 Pandemic hit.

“While the laundromat has remained open as an essential service, we limited access to the closet, taking requests over the phone and gathering clothes for people to pick up at the laundromat,” she said.
“We are ready to move out of the COVID restrictions and the number of calls has increased, making it difficult to keep up,” Lovelace said.  “So, we have redesigned the closet for folks to be able to come to the laundromat, sign in and go to the closet to gather clothing and household linens as needed during the closet open hours.”
She said they have had a large number of items donated and are trying out the self-service idea.
“The kick-off is Saturday, Jan 29th and we will see how it works,” she said.  “Our mission has always been to be a middleman for a flow of items from folks willing to donate to folks in need and we have been learning how the best way to efficiently do that over the past two years.”
Fort Scott Washateria Services
“Fort Scott Washateria continues to provide a clean place for people to do their laundry and we have been doing a lot of laundry in our Wash/Dry/Fold Service,” she said.  “We still have free pick and delivery for the WDF service including hotels and campgrounds in the area and we provide commercial laundry service to local businesses.”
Oakleaf and Lovelace give a tour of the Washateria prior to opening in Sept. 2019.
“We have some new promotions and services set up for this year, stay tuned for more information on those,” Lovelace said.
The laundromat is open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
“We also starch and press, steam, and do some limited alterations,” she said.
Rules for the Community Closet
“The rules for the closet are, for folks looking for items, to sign in at the front desk and when they are done looking to come back in for a sack and to sign out,” Lovelace said.  “We ask for respect in going through the items, returning them to their tubs and shelves so the next folks can easily find what they need.”
To Donate
For people interested in donating,  they accept clothing, bedding, and coats.
“We can’t handle shoes or items other than the clothing due to space limitations,” she said.  “You just have to bring your items to the front desk in bags, boxes or loose, we will take care of them from there.  We take donations during all hours the laundromat is open.”
Lori Lovelace can be contacted through the laundromat Facebook page, phone-620-644-9834, [email protected], or [email protected]

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