Clothes call: Local teen spearheads free laundry service

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Tampa native Cutter Huston started a local chapter of The Laundry Project, an organization that helps low-income families wash clothes at the local laundromat free of charge. Photo: Cramer Photo Tampa native Cutter Huston started a local chapter of The Laundry Project, an organization that helps low-income families wash clothes at the local laundromat free of charge. Photo: Cramer Photo

Cutter Huston has never had to worry about clean clothes. But it wasn’t until he became involved with The Laundry Project that he realized not everyone takes something so basic for granted.

The son of an Army brigadier general, Huston was living in Tampa, Florida, when his mother, Michelle, saw a news story about people who were unable to find employment because they didn’t have clean clothes to wear to job interviews. “That resonated,” he says, and it occurred to him that something as simple as washing clothes “could change someone else’s life.” And that’s why Huston, now 16 and a junior at Albemarle High School, decided to volunteer with Tampa’s Laundry Project, which allows low-income families to wash clothes and linens free of charge with the help of volunteers, who assist with laundry services, provide child care and turn laundromats into community centers.

During his time with the group, Huston grew close to The Laundry Project founder, Jason Sowell, and he says leaving the organization was one of the hardest things about moving when his father was reassigned and the family relocated to Charlottesville last summer. But during a chance encounter with Sowell in Washington, D.C., in June, inspiration struck: Why not start a Laundry Project here? And before you could say “wash, dry, fold and repeat,” Huston had introduced himself to Trey Coe, owner of Express Laundry on Maury Avenue. It didn’t take much convincing to get Coe on board, Huston says, and the area’s inaugural Laundry Project day came off without a hitch at the end of October. Sponsors included Ragged Mountain Running Shop, Whole Foods and Bodo’s Bagels.

In addition to washing 242 loads of clothes at no cost (saving customers about $500), Huston served dozens of people a free breakfast, and he was able to send many home from the laundromat with extra food. “Trey and I both want to provide hope to people who have lost it, and help them regain a foothold and get their lives back where they want them to be,” Huston says.

A member of the AHS cross country team and the school’s Math, Engineering & Science Academy, Huston says a date hasn’t been set for the next free laundry day, but he’s hoping to do three or four in 2018. “I have been very lucky to be in a family where I don’t need to worry about clean clothes or having enough to eat,” he says. “And it’s my duty to give back and spread the love to everybody who deserves it.”

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