Laundry Matters is located at 51 Reid St.
In an effort to help the Eastside in a practical way, Samantha Sammis did something she never expected. She bought a laundromat.
Located at 51 Reid St., Laundry Matters currently serves as the only laundromat for residents of the Eastside and is the most recent effort by Sammis’ nonprofit, Loving America Street, to further what she calls “asset-based community development” in the neighborhood.
Sammis, 26, first got to know her Eastside neighbors around 2010 when she and her friends began playing basketball with the kids in Mall Park. From there, they began organizing community cookouts and doing anything they could to spread goodwill.
“It wasn’t organized under a club or church or specific group. It was just people who wanted to hang out with kids and love on the community a little bit,” says Sammis.
After graduating from the College of Charleston, Sammis moved to Boston, but wouldn’t stay long. A visit to Charleston over spring break reminded her of the connection she had established with the local children, and in August 2012 she returned to the Eastside.
“I didn’t know who I was going to live with or what my job was going to be or what was going to happen,” says Sammis. “I just knew I wanted to live in the Eastside and be neighbors with the families and kids I had built relationships with already.”
She eventually found a place to live with seven like-minded roommates and they began opening their home every week for a free dinner and Bible study. To this day, Sammis says her front door at 90 Columbus St. is unlocked every Thursday evening at 7 p.m. for anyone interested.
The group also organizes a free family photo day every December, delivering framed portraits in time for the holidays.
“I feel like most organizations give out food or money or toys and gifts during the holidays, but we can give something that’s priceless in a sense and can last a long time,” says Sammis.
As a way to continue their efforts, Loving America Street incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2014 and began brainstorming new ways to take the strengths of the neighborhood and use them to empower people.
While looking to purchase property in the area, Sammis and her fellow organizers were approached by their landlord who asked if they’d be interested in buying the laundromat.
“We came and looked at it, and we’re like, ‘Hold on a second, this is the only laundromat in the Eastside,’” says Sammis. “It’s the only laundromat in walking distance for people who live here.”
Currently operating under a one-year business lease, Laundry Matters is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Loving America Street is currently accepting donations to go toward renovations and cover a portion of day-to-day expenses for the laundromat. The nonprofit is also looking for monthly donors to help support the operational costs of the ministry.