By Bill Parry
An East Elmhurst Laundromat provided free laundry services to more than 75 families living at The Landing homeless shelter near LaGuardia Airport this week.
Samuel Van De Cruze, the owner of Mr. Bubbles Laundromat at 94-23 Astoria Blvd., began picking up laundry Monday night and he and his staff worked all night long to wash, dry, fold and return the clean loads of laundry to the shelter by 7 a.m. each morning — giving families plenty of time to dress in fresh clothes for school, job training or job- and house-hunting.
“These kind of heartfelt and thoughtful gestures are why we are so grateful for the warm welcome we’ve received from the East Elmhurst community,” said Elizabeth Abdur-Raheem, senior program manager at The Landing.
Catina B., who lives at The Landing with her toddler and spends more than a quarter of her income on laundry, was grateful for Van De Cuze’s generosity.
“Normally I spend almost $30 on laundry weekly, which has to come from my Public Assistance income,” she said. “This (donation from Mr. Bubbles) means that this week both she and I won’t have to go through that — and I will be able to save this $30 for something else.”
Van De Cruze planned to launder 1,000 pounds of laundry each night, estimating that his gift to The Landing families, with delivery and pick-up, will save them a total of nearly $5,000.
But in an interview at his Laundromat Tuesday, the owner admitted he was not as altruistic as it might seem.
“Look, I’m a businessman,” Van De Cruze said. “You ever drive around this neighborhood? There’s Laundromats everywhere and I had to figure out where I could get more business. I saw the shelter and found out they had no laundry facilities so I offered my services.”
Van De Cruze started by leaving fliers on the shelter’s front desk advertising his services plus free pick-up and delivery.
“I got a call for a pick-up about two weeks ago,” he said. “I picked up four bags of laundry and it was pretty clear it hadn’t been laundered in months. The clothes were in really bad shape and I had to launder them several times before they were fresh. It got me thinking what’s going on over there.”
The Rosedale resident, who was a social worker for a year during the Dinkins administration before deciding it was too difficult, was motivated to do something to help the resident of The Landing.
“Clean clothes and bedding are necessities — almost as important as food and shelter,” he said. “People need clean clothes to function and be healthy. It’s a basic need. What good is it if the clothing’s not clean? How else can you be presentable or sociable and go to work and school?”
He decided to offer the free service for the week in the spirit of Easter but did not want it to appear there was anything religious behind his motives.
“Look, I’m a Christian, and not one of those only on Sunday-mornings-go-to-church Christians,” Van De Cruze said. “I try do good things and live like a Christian, but this was all about hoping they’d want to use my Laundromat in the future for the business. We do have free pick-up and delivery.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr