Sitting with us today is Cutter Huston.
Cutter is 16 years old, a junior at Albemarle County High School. He returned to Charlottesville last year after his father was reassigned as the Commander of the JAG school at UVA. Before living here, his family lived in Tampa, Florida where he was introduced to The Laundry Project by his mom, Michelle. She heard about the project on the local news in Tampa and they volunteered together at the organization’s next event. Cutter was immediately inspired.
The Laundry Project is one branch of a non-profit based in Tampa called Current Initiatives. The founder, Jason Sowell, is committed to fostering change in communities by empowering people and families to actively forward their positions. The Laundry Project aims to do this by helping provide free laundry services to people and families who need them. Each attending customer does their own laundry at the participating laundromat, but does not have the pay for the detergents or the quarters that go into the machine.
"Often people don't believe it's actually free, that there's a catch, but we tell them no. There's no catch. We're just here to help."
When Cutter and his family found out they were moving to Charlottesville, Cutter knew that this was something he wanted to bring with him. He began working to bring the project here before he had even officially moved. He has had tremendous help and support from Mr. Sowell along the way, and credits much of the success of the project here in Charlottesville to the fact that this was an established group ready to provide the infrastructure to expand the project to a new location.
At only thirteen years old when he first got involved with the group, Cutter says he had never really thought about laundry, or the importance of clean laundry. He and his family had never experienced having to choose bills or groceries over having clean clothing. Seeing the impact that free laundry and clean clothes made in the lives of people who have to make those considerations made him feel motivated to continue to help as much as he could. As we interviewed Cutter, it was clear that he had a rare capacity for empathy in someone so young, and his passion for this project was evident. He said that he loves seeing someone who comes to the Laundry Project because they have a tight, often over extended budget, but this one small thing might allow them to free up just enough resources to maybe have a nice lunch, or afford something they thought they couldn’t. He said he loves that it could bring even small, or short-lived joy to someone’s day and ultimately add to someone’s pride in themselves and their lives.
Another hugely motivating experience for Cutter has been the personal stories of people who are homeless or living in the streets and shelters who have trouble just getting people to look them in the eye, much less take them seriously when they are wearing dirty clothing. Often, the simple change of having clean clothes creates a major change in the amount of respect someone experiences and can help them get a job, or seek assistance they otherwise might have been overlooked for.
Last October, Cutter held the first Laundry Project of Charlottesville at the Express Laundry Laundromat on Maury Avenue, near the University. The owner there, Mr. Trey Coe, has proven an enthusiastic ally for Cutter, having had ideas for a similar initiative that never grew legs. There was an outpouring of support.
“It seemed like anyone who even caught a whiff of this project was super happy to contribute and proud that it was here in Charlottesville.”
Bodo's Bagels and Whole Foods donated breakfast for the customers, enough that many were able to take food home for subsequent meals. The JAG Legal Center and School Spouses Club donated over $500 of laundry supplies, and Ragged Mountain Running shop allowed Cutter to set up shop on a Saturday to tell customers about his project, offered in-store incentives to customers who chose to donate, and matched all donations. These donations allowed Cutter to raise enough money to cover the first event, in which he and his volunteers washed 64 people’s laundry, or around 28 families. For a first-time event in a relatively small city, this was huge. A good turn-out in Tampa could produce over 100 people, so getting about half of that went beyond expectation—a good sign that this is a needed service within our community.
Cutter is right now preparing for the second Laundry Project of Charlottesville. He hopes to host at least three this year, with a goal of eventually hosting one per quarter. The next event will be hosted at the same location, Express Laundry, on March 17th, from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM. Cutter is excited because the success of the first project has garnered attention from local low-income housing areas whose representatives have reached out to get the information into their newsletters – he says that the biggest challenge he has in the next few weeks is getting the word out to the people who need the service. Roxie Daisy was honored to donate and give support for the upcoming event and help further this project within our community. If you would like to help Cutter, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.laundrybycurrent.org