The Charlotte City Council’s new effort to make the community more welcoming to immigrants could get a boost from a Latin American Coalition proposal to open a string of neighborhood laundromats that double as immigrant welcome centers.
Coalition leaders unveiled the idea late last week at the Foundation for the Carolinas during an event that hoped to recruit backers. The cost of opening the first laundromat will be in excess of $400,000, though organizers hope to reduce costs with corporate gifts.
Backers for the idea already include the Community Catalyst Fund and the Reemprise Fund, two grant-making entities that have provided a collective $95,000 to help the Latin American Coalition further develop the concept. Former Arts & Science Council President Scott Provancher is also acting as a consultant.
Latin American Coalition leaders would like to see the first laundromat open in one of the city’s largely Latino neighborhoods in 15 months, but they concede much work needs to be done. This includes doing the legal legwork necessary to allow a nonprofit to operate a for-profit subsidiary, something the coalition says is critical to making the welcome centers self-sustaining.
Leaders of the city’s Immigrant Integration Task Force are lauding the plan. The task force was created by the City Council in November to recommend policies that could help all the city’s immigrants become more fully involved in economic and cultural affairs.
Emily Zimmern, who co-chairs the task force, says the Latin American Coalition proposal could result in what amounts to a series of Latino community centers for the city.
“People need the services of a laundromat, so they’re already going to be there. This allows the coalition to deliver information and host meetings while immigrants are waiting,” said Zimmern, who is president of the Levine Museum of the New South.
“It’s also an innovative way to bring together immigrants and long-time members of the community. It’s a natural way to break down barriers. I remember when I lived in an apartment and used the laundromat. You see the same faces and get to know each other.”
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