An Orange Sky Laundry service will be offering clean clothes and conversation for Illawarra’s homeless within weeks thanks to generous benefactors.
Wollongong’s Bruce and Val McDiarmid have donated the $100,000 necessary to get the distinctive orange van – equipped with washing machines and dryers – on the streets from Helensburgh to Kiama.
The free mobile laundry service was established by a pair of young Brisbane lads Nick Marchesi and Lucas Patchett in 2014, and there’s now 10 vans across Australia. The Illawarra van will be the 11th.
The initiative ‘’struck a chord’’ with Mr McDiarmid – the founder of Illawarra building company Marksman Homes – and his wife Val.
‘’We’ve been very lucky in life – we have great family and friends – and we thought it was time for us to give something back to society,’’ he said.
‘’We’d never heard of anything like this and we liked the idea because it not only gave homeless people an opportunity to get their clothes washed and dried, it was a chance for them to get together and have a chat and enjoy some camaraderie.’’
For each time the van stops, six orange chairs are pulled out for volunteers to strike up non-judgmental conversations with those they’re helping out.
Mr McDiarmid, now retired after selling his company in 2000, said his four children had backed his and his wife’s decision to donate.
They now hope others will follow their lead and donate funds – or their time – to keep the service running.
‘’It’s such a worthwhile cause – now the van is coming, we hope people will volunteer to operate it, ‘’ Mrs McDiarmid said.
Mr Marchesi and Mr Patchett, the 2016 Young Australians of the Year, stopped off at Warrawong in July during a road trip to spread the message.
Their visit sparked a call by Wollongong surgeon Dr Bruce Ashford for the community to raise the funds to buy the van.
Dr Ashford started the ball rolling with a donation of his own while Ramsay Health Care, operators of Wollongong Private Hospital, has also put funds towards the cause.
Mr Patchett said he was impressed with the rapid response of the Illawarra community.
‘’The donation by the McDiarmid family is wonderful and we have no doubt that the Wollongong community will back that generosity with their own support for the service,” he said.
Wollongong Private Hospital commercial manager Elise Piucco said Ramsay would continue to support the ongoing running costs for the service.
The van is expected in the region within eight weeks.