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Wash, dry, fold, read

A group stocks laundries with books for kids who have none.

By EILEEN SCHULTE, Times Staff Writer
Published September 9, 2007

A book available for kids to read at the Soap Opera coin laundromat in Oldsmar displays a sticker from the General Federation of Women's Clubs that announces the book may be kept. A club member got the idea to do this after seeing lower income women bringing their children into laundromats to do the laundry and seeing how bored the kids are.
[Jim Damaske | Times]
[Jim Damaske | Times]
Classic childrens tales are available to read at the Soap Opera coin laundromat in Oldsmar. The local chapter of the General Federation of Women's Clubs is putting children's books in laundromats.

[Jim Damaske | Times]
Debbie Struk with some of the donated books she will be taking to several north Pinellas Laundromats.

Oh, the places you'll go at the Soap Opera coin laundry in Oldsmar.

You can become a fossil detective.

You can fly with Dumbo.

You can fight big green hairy monsters.

You can be anywhere but where you actually are, in a slightly sad, boring place with rows of washing machines and dryers while your mom does the whites and the brights.

You can do all this just by digging into a cardboard box filled with worn books.

"It keeps the kids occupied," said Fred Greco, 70, the owner.

If not for the books, he said, the little ones jump into the tall baskets and wheel them into each other.

The program, called "Learning at the Laundromat," was started two years ago by the 64-member General Federation of Woman's Club, North Pinellas Woman's Club chapter.

The service club for women in their 40s and up was founded in 2003 by members of the GFWC Clearwater Junior Woman's Club.

It's easier to ask what the club doesn't do than what it does.

Members make and give out pillows to breast cancer patients, bake cookies for the troops in Iraq, offer an annual college scholarship for a cancer patient, help out at the Clearwater Free Clinic, The Haven, Metropolitan Ministries, Paint Your Heart Out, Clothes-to-Kids; Special Olympics - and the list goes on and on.

After hearing about a similar program, another GFWC club started in another state, members were inspired to launch the program.

They collect used books and place them at five coin laundries in Clearwater, Safety Harbor and Oldsmar, hoping that kids whose families might not be able to afford books will pick them up and start a lifetime of reading.

Debbie Struk, the club's president-elect, said it has distributed at least 1,000 books.

"The whole purpose is to get books into the hands of children who might not have books of their own," she said.

There are picture books such as Who Has Four Feet? for toddlers. It is a sweet, quick read: "A fawn has four feet. A lamb has four feet. A fish has no feet."

More advanced books such as Crow Boy entertain the older children.

Struk said she is trying to collect more books in Spanish for the large Hispanic population that uses the laundries.

One thing is sure. The books the club leaves at the laundries must be made of magic.

At the end of the day, they've disappeared.

"That's a great sign, said club president Sandy Incorvia.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at or (727) 445-4153.



Want to help

Do you any have children's books you would like to donate to the "Learning at the Laundromat" program? Or are you a laundry manager who would like to offer books to children? If so, e-mail the GFWC North Pinellas Woman's Club at or visit the club's Web site at


[Last modified September 8, 2007, 21:43:39]

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