The family needed clean clothes, so the five of them drove to a laundromat near the hotel they’d been holed up in during the past four days, waiting out Tropical Storm Irma.
Tyrone Chisholm, Nicole Telfair and their children had evacuated from Savannah to Macon on Saturday. They stayed at the same hotel they stayed in last year when Hurricane Matthew hit coastal Georgia.
Chisholm parked the minivan outside the Wash-n-Dry on Riverside Drive and the family toted bags of clothes and blankets inside.
There, about a dozen people wearing orange shirts greeted them, offering a cup of iced sweet tea, some food and, perhaps most unexpectedly, to do all of their laundry.
“They actually made us,” Chisholm said with a chuckle. “I thought that was real nice. … They even helped fold it.”
Alyssa Oliver, 16, started the “Loads of Love” ministry in Macon about seven months ago. She was inspired by her friend, Caroline Gowan, who won a Girl Scout award for the project in Bonaire.
“We like provide the soap and the quarters and we provide our time and washing and drying, and even help folding,” Oliver said. “I love this ministry. … You know, we take clean clothes for granted every day.”
“Loads of Love” operates on donations and normally does its ministry from 5-7 p.m. every third Thursday of the month.
Oliver said she organized another event upon realizing evacuees in Macon also could use some clean clothes, particularly if they’re returning to a place with no power. She organized a group to help and posted flyers around shelters in Macon.
Oliver’s father, Chad Oliver, is part of a group that owns Genghis Grill and at least 10 Zaxby’s restaurants between Macon and Dublin. He donated chicken sandwiches, pineapple teriyaki chicken and garlic beef with noodles for the evacuees.
“Their stories are all sad,” Chad Oliver said of the evacuees he had served. “Most of them are from Savannah.”
Tionda Williams, of Pooler, stayed at the North Macon Park shelter with 14 other family members.
“It’s probably flooded,” Williams said of her home, adding there was no water or power yet in her neighborhood.
While church groups had been helping wash clothes at the shelter, the shelters began closing Tuesday.
“Some of us didn’t have any money,” Williams said. “We are just blessed there’s people out there opening their doors and helping us.”