VERO BEACH – Sunshine Laundry Center presented United Against Poverty (UP) with a check for $3,466 last week as part of the family-run laundry facilities Community Washer and Dryer program.

Families living in poverty are overwhelmed with food and housing insecurity, but with UP’s help those willing to work hard can find their way to a better life. Clients participating in STEP (Success Training for Employment Program) – a six-week job-readiness and skills training program – leave prepared for job placement.

After graduating from STEP, UP clients are prepared to enter the workforce. UP training equips program graduates with emotional intelligence, workplace and job acquisition skills and the tools they will need to navigate the interview process. UP even assists graduates in building a work-appropriate wardrobe.

Sunshine Laundry Center owner Tom Rhodes also supports STEP graduates with the Bubble Card, which entitles program graduates to a 50 percent discount on laundry services for one year. “I understand getting out of poverty takes a while. We hope this will help lift people out of that situation.”

During the job interview process, it’s important to “dress for success,” and most struggling families living in poverty don’t have access to a washer or dryer. Food, housing, and other basic needs take priority over clean laundry making it impossible for families to divert their limited resources to the cost of washing clothing at a laundry mat.

Several years ago Rhodes implemented the Blessed Washer Campaign, whereby a portion of the proceeds from one washing machine was donated to a local nonprofit each quarter. Of the seven Sunshine Laundry Center locations on the Treasure Coast, the Fort Pierce and Vero Beach sites offer these special machines.

“It’s such a natural partnership,” added Jeff Francisco, UP development director. “These funds support programs that help people to lift themselves and their families up and out of the cycle of poverty to economic self-sufficiency.”

Recently, Rhodes was inspired to increase his community gifting after attending a Lenten devotional at St. Mark’s Anglican Church of Vero Beach. “I saw Jesus with his hands stretched out and something stirred in me. I decided to do this year round and added a dryer in the mix. Our regular customers ask for these machines, knowing they are helping others just by doing their laundry.”

Rhodes was drawn to support UP because of the synergy. “We have a common customer base. Not all of our customers walk through the UP facility, but it’s the same demographic. My desire to help others aligns with UP’s mission to give a hand up. I was born and raised in Vero Beach, so I love this community, and I realize that we’re all woven together. We’re all one big family at the end of the day. If my brother’s hurting then I want to help my brother in some way.”

Canieria Gardner, UP St. Lucie County executive director, said “The individuals that we serve are struggling with paying their light bill, their rent, and other basic necessities. A program like this is so beneficial because it lightens that load so that they are able to allocate their funds to necessities.”

About United Against Poverty:
United Against Poverty, founded in 2003, is a 501(c)3 serving those in poverty by providing crisis care, case management, transformative education, food, and household subsidy, employment training and placement, personal empowerment training and active referrals to other collaborative social service providers. The nonprofit provides a comprehensive approach to fight and reduce long-term, poverty-related hunger so that every family has access to basic needs, nutritional food, crisis care, education and employment training, and where everyone has the opportunity to achieve a future filled with hope and possibilities. UP is the only national organization to provide families with both emergency food supplies and the opportunity to obtain highly subsidized groceries, including hygiene products.

This article was distributed through Treasure Coast Business, a news service for the readers and advertisers of Indian River Magazine.