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Ashland laundromat delivers amid COVID-19

When the ramifications of COVID-19 began to sweep across the Rogue Valley, hammering the local economy and forcing Ashlanders, especially the most vulnerable, to shelter in place, Lisandra Miranda knew many of her customers would be hit hard.

As the manager at Henry’s Laundromat in the Ashland Shopping Center, Miranda figured her clientele could use a helping hand, and her books agreed — business took a big hit, meaning somewhere laundry was starting to pile up. But instead of cutting costs and waiting the pandemic out, Miranda decided to do what she could to help customers regain access to what many would consider an essential service.

“A lot of my clients for the wash-and-fold service are like solo owners, barbershops, acupuncturists, and they all shut down,” said Miranda, 33. “So realizing that all these places were closing and we have many senior citizens that come in here, I just figured it would be best to lower the rates for the wash-and-fold service.”

In an effort to encourage people to stay home, Miranda is offering free pickup and delivery for any new customer until at least the end of May. And for senior citizens, she’s lowered her rates to $1 per pound from $1.50. Miranda also has partnered with the Laundry Love program, which provides laundry services for the homeless, and is working with Options for Helping Residents of Ashland. OHRA provides vouchers that homeless residents can redeem at Henry’s Laundromat.

“So Laundry Love has given me permission and money to provide laundry (service) for people that just can’t pay for it,” said Miranda, who operates the wash-and-fold service on the side, beyond her managerial duties. “You can ... come in and talk to me and say, ‘Hey, I heard I can get laundry.’ So many people lost their jobs and their income overnight.”

The wash-and-fold service and the delivery service has been a huge relief for Henry’s customers, homeless or not.

One of those customers, Laura Olderich, says she gets her laundry picked up and dropped off once a week and touts the service as flawless.

“It’s excellent,” Olderich said. “I am just very delighted with what (Miranda) does there. It’s too easy. There’s nothing I have to do. We don’t even need to say anything because they know exactly what to do.”

To minimize contact, Miranda is asking customers to leave their laundry on their porch. She grabs it in the morning and returns it later that afternoon.

Liza Maltsberger used to use Uber or catch a lift from a friend to do her laundry until coming down with the flu in December. That’s when she discovered the wash-and-fold program.

“I tried it once and (Miranda) really does an amazing job with the wash-and-fold,” Maltsberger said. “And then obviously when (COVID-19) happened — I don’t have a washer or dryer in my apartment — it was a no-brainer. I have a community organizing background, and what makes me love them the most is that not only is Miranda really good at her job they were doing Laundry Love. In a sense, groups like that which work to do horizontally organized care from the heart, for me, that’s what government is and should be — they represent collective strengths and collective immunity.”

Miranda said the voucher program through OHRA has been well used so far, with about 30 people already taking advantage. And once Ashland Senior Services Superintendent Isleen Glatt learned that seniors could get their clothes washed and dried at a reduced rate without leaving their home, she began steering the town’s seniors to Henry’s.

A link to Henry’s Laundromat, as well as Weldon’s Cleaners, is on the COVID-19 Senior Resources webpage.

For those who opt to use the laundromat itself, Miranda works hard to make sure it’s as safe as possible. The machines are sterilized at least once an hour if the customers aren’t wiping them down themselves with provided disinfectant wipes, and customers are “strongly encouraged” to wait outside while their clothes wash and dry.

One unexpected COVID-19-related challenge has presented itself at the laundromat: a dwindling supply of quarters. Ordinarily recycled from quarter machines to washers and dryers and back again, the quarters for the past few weeks have been slowly disappearing as customers, without access to banks, instead have used the machines as coin banks. The solution may be going to a token system, but Miranda isn’t too worried about that.

In the days of the novel coronavirus, the manager of a busy laundromat must tackle her problems one by one. Barely on Miranda’s radar is what her free delivery service is costing her. Not important, she said.

“It’s definitely taking money out of my pocket, I guess,” she said. “I’m not making as much money as I could, but at the same time I think right now it’s just a lot more important to help people and keep everybody safe. That’s my priority. If I make money, I make money. But that’s not really the most important thing right now.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.

Jamie Lusch / Ashland TidingsLisandra Miranda does laundry for a costumer at Henry’s Laundromat in Ashland on Thursday.