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Knoxville laundromat offering to help lighten the load for struggling families

Local business owner built his business from the ground up. Now he partners with a nonprofit that helps people in need do their laundry for free.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Almost one out of every five families live in poverty in Knoxville, according to the U.S. Census. Mustafa Freeman owns the Wash House Laundry Center, and he is hoping to lighten the load for struggling families.

Freeman partners with a group called Laundry Love to offer people a free way to do their laundry. On the first Tuesday of every month, he provides his facility to Laundry Love, so the nonprofit can wash peoples' clothes for free. 

While the nonprofit does pay a fee, it's a different type of day at Freeman's shop. The free laundry day is not his regular business. 

"I really been through a lot," Freeman said. "Like I've been through ups and downs and I feel the people, I feel when someone in need, so for someone needs — I have, I need, to pay it forward."

Freeman wasn't always a business owner. He was born in Iraq and worked there with the U.S. military as a mechanical engineer. He said the stakes were high during the war.

"Losing your life. Like, you have one second," Freeman said.

After a few years of hardship and unfortunate events, he eventually immigrated to the U.S. with a special military visa that was provided to him by the U.S. Army.

"Losing a lot of things like my health,h family, and I had a business over there. I lost it," Freeman said.

He said when he came to Knoxville, he built his own business and knew he wanted to pay it forward to others who needed a helping hand. For the last four years, Laundry Love has been washing laundry at his laundromat for people in need once per month.

"As soon as we met Mustafa, he was completely on board. He loved the idea of giving back to the community," said Garland Pope, executive director of Laundry Love. "He's done everything he can to really help us to have everything we need to really provide this service to our neighbors."

Pope said they accept walk-ins and that there are no qualifications for someone who needs to wash their laundry with them. He said if someone needs it, they'll do it for them. 

The easiest way to receive this service is to show up at one of their events between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Business owners who want to participate can contact the organization directly to talk about what they could offer.

Pope said the best way to stay informed is to follow them on Facebook, or subscribe to their newsletter. 

As for Freeman, one of the last things he shared was how grateful he was when he had nothing and other people helped him. Starting from scratch wasn't easy, he said, and that's why giving back is important to him.

"This is what I believe — you pay it forward," Freeman said. "God will reward you for sure."

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