On Tuesday mornings, Suzanne Lanier will walk in with a spray bottle in one hand and a Swiffer slung over her shoulder. She makes a beeline for the laundry room, where she spends the morning washing, drying, sorting, and folding the laundry of Room In The Inn participants.
Watching Suzanne fold laundry is like watching an origami master at work. She precisely folds each sleeve and pant leg with crisp lines and gently places them in a laundry basket. When every load of clothes is done, she starts cleaning. The whole room smells of lemons. It’s a place where you want to linger—and participants often do when they pick up their laundry, handed over with a kind word from Suzanne.
While doing laundry may seem like an insignificant way to help those experiencing homelessness, Room In The Inn’s laundry service demonstrates our core value of respect and offer participants a dignity many of us might easily take for granted—clean clothes.
For Suzanne, doing laundry provides an opportunity to connect with those experiencing homelessness in a personal way. Suzanne sat down to discuss the impact doing laundry makes in the homeless community.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 72 years old. I went to school at Emory University in Atlanta and got both a BA degree and a Master of Arts in teaching degree. I taught in Augusta and Atlanta before deciding that I didn’t want to do that anymore. I was a Human Resource manager for 14 years before finally retiring in 2013.
How long have you been involved with Room In The Inn?
I started volunteering in 2015. I got on the website and saw all the volunteer opportunities—but I chose laundry. I thought, I’d done all the teaching, I’ve done all the communication. Now it’s time to serve in a different way, maybe doing something other people might not be so eager to do.
What brought you to Room In The Inn?
God said to love others, serve others. It just seemed like a community where I wanted to serve. I had no idea what it would be like—but I knew laundry.
Why serve at Room In The Inn?
There’s just something about this place. I see how everyone cares about the participants, how they know each participant by his or her name and treat individuals respectfully. [Those in the homeless community] have so many problems. One thing they don’t have to come out with is wrinkled clothes.
What does serving the homeless community mean to you?
Many come to Room in the Inn because they feel safe and loved here. God loves me, too, even though I fail him every day, so I count myself in the group that comes here to feel God’s love.
What impact do you feel you make in this community?
It gives me a short time to be with each person. I pray for each one of them. I provide a service of folding and listening.
The greatest gift you can give someone is to be quiet. [Suzanne, quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer] The first service one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them.
Is there a significant story you’d like to share about your time at Room In The Inn?
There was a woman who came by one day, and I asked her how she was doing. She told me her husband had just died. I said, ‘I am so sorry.’ She said she had come to Room In The Inn that day because part of her healing was getting hugs, and she knew she could get hugs here. So, I gave her a hug. I’ve never seen her again.
What brings you joy?
I enjoy solitude because it gives me time for my creative activities: drawing, sculpting in clay, arranging flowers, making wreaths, singing; so many creative things! I love being with my friends, my daughters, and my grandchildren. I do like doing laundry here—I don’t know why! I hate doing my own laundry!
What would you tell others who might want to get involved in this community?
I think volunteers will experience a sense of love and peace far exceeding their expectations. They will, without a doubt, leave with more than they brought.
Room In The Inn needs people like you to make a difference in this community. Click here to learn how you can get involved. What could your Power of One story be?