Cypress Jamar helps her mom, Tanis Jamar, with flood victims’ laundry. Tanis and more than 150 other Mom Squad members have begun taking care of clothes, linens, and towels belonging to flood victims. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
The clothes are in their second round of soaking in a 300-gallon stock tank, but, as Tanis Jamar checked on their progress, she noted the water was clouded with dirt and debris.
“This is after I soaked it all last night in water, about 20 gallons of vinegar, and OxyClean,” she said. “I even let them dry a bit and sprayed them down again before soaking them again. I can’t believe the dirt and stuff in all these clothes.”
She’ll let the clothes soak for awhile longer before she actually begins running them through her clothes washer — which she’ll have to do at least two times.
“You never think of this when you think of flooding,” Jamar added as she pushed the clothes around. “This woman, she has no insurance so even if she tried to replace all these clothes, even if she went to Goodwill, I can’t imagine how much it would cost.”
Jamar is one of more than 150 women who have stepped up to answer the call of taking on laundry following the Oct. 16 floods. They’re part of the Mom Squad, which took off after Becca Schafer sent out a request across her Facebook page and other avenues asking friends of hers if they could do some laundry.
Schafer realized the need for washing clothes as she and her daughter, Izzy, helped with “mudding out” several homes after the flood. As she stepped into one house, Schafer learned that the floodwaters had climbed above her head in the home, and she’s just over 5 feet tall.
“And then, there was the mud,” Schafer said. “The mud there was inches of it on the floor and other places. There was water and mud in places you couldn’t imagine. The indent in a candle, you know right where the wick is, there was water and mud there.”
Then, there were the clothes and other fabrics. They soaked up water, mud, and anything else in the floodwaters, even the stench of dead fish.
The people affected by the flood were busy trying to access their homes, clean up the mud and water, pull out furniture and anything else they could. The clothes, even those not touched by the flood, piled up on the lawn, in the garage, or on on driveway.
“They didn’t have time to go through it, let alone try and clean it,” Schafer said. She also realized most of the flood victims didn’t have a place to wash clothes or even store them until they could find a place to live or get their house cleaned up. “They didn’t know what to do with the clothes and fabric, so I saw a need to get their clothes washed.
“So, I started texting some of my mom friends to see if they wouldn’t mind picking up some clothes and washing them,” Schafer said. “And if you want to get things done, moms get things done.”
And they did, and are.
After the initial text and Facebook post a few days after the flood, at least 20 moms responded. The next day, that number jumped to 150 and kept climbing.
Schafer was still busy assisting with helping clean out houses as well as trying to run her own business and take care of her daughter. The Mom Squad, as it came to be known, needed hands-on coordinators.
But soon, several of the moms began organizing and managing the group, which includes getting the word out through social media, coordinating clothing pickups and drop-offs, and getting donations of laundry detergent.
“It was amazing,” Schafer said.
Jamar and Schafer both pointed out that this isn’t typical laundry with a little bit of dirt from outdoor playtime. A lot of the clothes wreak of foul smells and are caked in grime, dirt, and mud. And there are tons of it. Jamar said that if you look in your closet and consider all the clothing you have, you will understand the scope of the problem.
“And it’s not just clothing,” Jamar said. “It’s anything made of fabric, the clothes, the linens, the towels, anything.”
Even when the moms learned what they were being asked to do, they kept saying, “I will.”
Schafer said there is still a tremendous demand for volunteers to help mud out homes, with hundreds probably left.
“I think now that time has passed, and if you don’t drive down the streets or into the places where the houses have been flooded, we forget or we just think it’s over,” Schafer said. “But it’s not. There are so many houses that haven’t been touched. And we need so many more volunteers.”
But she also knows that not everyone can jump on a mud-out crew. Moms, especially single moms, might have kids at home to take care of. Yet, they want to help.
“In the worst of times, the best of people come out,” Schafer said. “But they don’t always know how to answer. Washing laundry, that’s a way to help.”
Since the initial Mom Squad call went out to help with laundry, dishes have been added to the list. Some people donate laundry detergent or offer to haul clothes in their truck. Others have offered to store the cleaned clothing and linens until the owner has a place or can go through them.
“Whatever their gifts or whatever they can do, these moms are doing it,” Schafer said.