Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi wanted to help the homeless in Brisbane, Australia, so they bought an old van, installed two washing machines and two dryers, and rode around the city offering a mobile laundry service. Four months later, they have 120 volunteers, sponsorship from major corporations, and a lot of publicity.
Patchett, 20, says the experience has been “awesome.”
The best friends met in high school and have worked with the homeless for several years. The idea for the Orange Sky laundry van came to them when they saw how much clothing was being thrown away. Charities in Brisbane give away free clothes, and Patchett says the homeless would often take more than they needed and then discard the clothes after a few days.
“One of the things we want to do is reduce strains on resources,” he says.
Patchett and Marchesi typically set up their van in parks in the early morning alongside cook-outs organized by local groups. They ask if people need laundry taken care of, then take in clothes, and deliver them clean at shelters. Local Salvation Army and Red Cross groups also borrow the van to do their own laundry rounds.
The friends aren’t stopping with their home town. With sponsorship from LG, a detergent supplier and a servicing company, they plan to set up next in Cairns, in North Queensland, and after that in Sydney and Melbourne. By the end of 2015, they hope to have 15 vans and be nationwide. “What we aimed to do was create a little charity for young people, run by young people,” Patchett says. “It’s got heaps of traction, which has been awesome for us.”