The immigrants living in Avalon Trace community had no good access to laundry facilities. They’d wash clothes in bathtubs, which would sometimes overflow, and hang or lay the clothes throughout the property – on trees, bushes and mostly flat on the ground.
The apartment manager asked for assistance. The Center for New North Carolinian volunteers and community center director Stephanie Baldwin, a UNCG staff member, saw an opportunity.
They could help meet the basic needs of the immigrants – clean clothes and clear living spaces – while the residents learned how to operate American-style washers and dryers.
But the results could go much further.
They installed three washers and two dryers, donated by the apartments’ management company.
African immigrants first began using the machines, after they were installed. Baldwin and CNNC Americorps volunteers showed them how to operate the switches, how much detergent to use, how full to load the washer. Then more began using them. They’d not go directly back to their homes – they’d sit and talk with each other – and with volunteers. They’d learn about English classes offered at the center. About a women’s support group there. Clothes for new arrivals. Computer-education and tutoring opportunities there. Health education – such as sickle cell outreach. Or if you just want someone to help you read mail …
The residents began taking greater advantage of what was offered – and became more empowered – simply because of some laundry.
Immigrants who’d learned the ins and outs of washing and drying with the machines would gives tips to other immigrants.
There’s now a greater sense of community, Baldwin explains. All because of a few machines – and basic needs being met.
The community center at Avalon Trace, located in eastern Greensboro, was created two years ago in partnership with the African Services Coalition and CNNC.
“We approached the complex. The apartment managers said, “OK, we’ll do this.” The groups were given use of three units and utilities.
Avalon Trace residents are primarily from Africa, Vietnam and Burma, Baldwin says.
Baldwin received her master’s in social work in the joint master’s program run by UNCG and NC A&T. She did much of her graduate work with former CNNC director Raleigh Bailey.
“I moved here [from West Virginia] just to do this,” she said.
She explained all this at the CNNC open house in Stone Building, this fall. Others running the table included Lizzie Biddle and Krycya Flores Rojas, UNCG staff members who are both involved with the Glen Haven and Avalon Trace centers.
Other CNNC programs such as Immigrant Health Access Project and UNCG’s AmeriCorps ACCESS Project were at nearby tables at the open house.
HES Dean Laura Sims noted that HES has helped with putting recycled computers in the center.
CNNC director Dan Beerman noted that UNCG students are regular volunteers at the two centers.
The international knitting group at Avalon Trace, which gathers once a week to converse and to knit and crochet, offers a selection of scarves, hats, pins and more for sale for the holidays. For more information about the knitting and this women’s group, contact Stephanie Baldwin.
By Mike Harris
Photography by Chris English