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Wildfire victims get a chance to shower, thanks to Modesto nonprofit group

Shower Shuttle off to aid fire victims

Church in the Park Modesto's Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle left Monday, Oct. 16, to spend a week in Santa Rosa providing showers to people displaced by the wildfires. Deke Farrow/jfarrow@modbee.co
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Church in the Park Modesto's Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle left Monday, Oct. 16, to spend a week in Santa Rosa providing showers to people displaced by the wildfires. Deke Farrow/jfarrow@modbee.co

As firefighters continue to battle the blazes tearing through the wine country, a Modesto ministry is using water to help victims another way.

The Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle, operated by Church in the Park Modesto, headed to Santa Rosa on Monday afternoon to spend a week providing hot showers to people displaced by the wildfires.

“Over 50,000 people have been displaced by the fires in Northern California that have (ravaged) entire neighborhoods, forcing families to escape with only their lives, their cars and the clothes on their backs,” reads an email sent out by the nonprofit to its supporters.

Church President Dean Dodd, board member Kelli Ott and church volunteer Mary Jarraid plan to stay through Saturday, longer if needed.

The shuttle, named Grace, will be at the Lighthouse Santa Rosa church, which will provide the water supply and house Dodd, Ott and Jarraid.

Cleansing Hope will operate eight hours a day, providing 10 five-minute showers per hour, Ott said. “So if we stay through Saturday, that’s 400 showers.”

In Modesto, the shuttle has an operation schedule of three days a week at Vine House, the Modesto Gospel Mission and The Salvation Army. The plan is to resume that schedule on Oct. 23, Ott said.

But Cleansing Hope will face a challenge upon return to Modesto. “This week, we’re going to be depleting our supplies,” Ott said, referring to toiletries and the clean socks and underwear provided to those who shower.

Any donations — whether socks and underwear or money to buy them — are appreciated, she said, noting that the community of homeless and working-poor individuals and families served by cleansing hope is about two-thirds male.

Heading out of Modesto to help another community isn’t the only way Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle is broadening its horizons. Ott and Dodd said Monday the nonprofit is on its way toward operating a Cleansing Hope Laundry Shuttle.

Ceres-based Bronco Wine Co. donated to Cleansing Hope a diesel bus it wasn’t using. It’s in great shape and has lower mileage than the shower shuttle in operation and the second one being built, but has a cloth roof and no wheelchair access, Ott said.

Because it would be cost prohibitive to make the bus a third shower shuttle, it will be fitted with three washing machines and three propane-heated dryers. Like the shower shuttles, all the laundry shuttle will need from a host site is water for the washers.

Cleansing Hope has begun seeking donations of washers and dryers from manufacturers, Ott said, but has not yet had success. Newer-model, water-efficient washers are needed, she said, “because we have to be conscious of our hosts’ supplies.”

The laundry shuttle is modeled after Orange Sky Laundry in Australia, whose website says “is the world’s first free mobile laundry service for the homeless. “

Last month, Cleansing Hope exceeded its fundraising goal to complete its second shower shuttle, named Mercy. The effort began with a GoFundMe drive and was aided by donations to The Bee’s A Book of Dreams, a matching donation from a business owner and another by an anonymous donor and “a significant donation from the Stanislaus Community Foundation,” Dodd said.

“We were also blessed by two different fundraising efforts: one by Geneva Presbyterian Church and another by the Christian Motorcycle Coalition,” he said.

Ott said Mercy is having its waterproof liner installed and will go into operation as soon as ready. Even if that’s midwinter, demand will be high, she said. Cold-weather showers have been just as popular as those offered in the blistering heat of summer, she said.

To donate to Cleansing Hope, go to showershuttle.com, to GoFundMe.com or to www.churchintheparkmodesto.org for a mailing address.

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