John Patterson, Caroline Gowan, Debra Patterson, and Rev. Wesley Deverger, pastor of Arco United Methodist Church in Brunswick, gather for a photo during the launch of Brunswick's Loads of Love ministry. The free laundry service will be offered from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month at the Coin Laundry in Brunswick.
By Kara Witherow, Editor
When Bonaire United Methodist Church member Caroline Gowan began her Loads of Love laundry ministry it was as a short-term Girl Scout project. Her long-term goal, though, was to see “Loads of Love in lots of places.” In less than two years it’s spread to Albany; Macon; Alabama; North Carolina; Texas; and Yakima, Washington.
On Saturday, April 1, Gowan and her mother, Michelle, were in Brunswick helping members of Arco United Methodist Church start their own Loads of Love ministry.
Arco UMC’s pastor, Rev. Wesley Deverger, heard of Loads of Love during the 2016 South Georgia Annual Conference session when Bonaire UMC and Gowan received an award from Discipleship Ministries for the work they’re doing.
He took the idea back to Brunswick and the Arco UMC congregation – who had been looking for a way to serve its community – liked the concept and thought it would be easy to implement.
“We can do this,” said John Patterson, a member of Arco UMC. Though Arco UMC is a small church – they average about 45 each week in worship – it is a strong congregation that wants to serve. They knew that Loads of Love could be one way they could make a difference. “We wanted to let them know people care.”
Patterson and his wife, Debra, got to see Loads of Love in action when they traveled to Bonaire a few weeks ago. They met Michelle, Caroline, Bonaire UMC pastor Rev. Scott Hagan, and picked up some helpful tips and pointers. Rev. Melissa Traver, pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church in Jesup, visited Brunswick on Saturday to experience their first Loads of Love.
Social media has played a huge role in the spread of Loads of Love, Caroline Gowan said. More than one million people watched a video story on Facebook filmed and posted by USA TODAY’S Humankind, and scores of people like and share Loads of Love’s tweets and social media posts.
The need for clean laundry exists in every community, says Michelle Gowan, and there are a lot of people who can be served by the ministry.
“If there’s a laundromat, there’s a need,” she said.
On Saturday, a handful of Arco UMC volunteers welcomed nearly a dozen patrons during their three-hour laundry session. As word spreads they expect crowds to grow.
The free laundry service will be offered on the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the Coin Laundry laundromat at 130 Old Jesup Highway in Brunswick. The group believes this is start of something big in Brunswick, and Rev. Deverger would like to build partnerships with other Glynn County churches to be able to expand the reach and scope of the ministry.
“There’s something more to going to church on Sunday,” said Debra Patterson. “It’s what you do during the week.”