Calgary’s Laundry Fairy

When a community like ours comes together, amazing feats are accomplished: homes are drained and gutted in a few days, volunteers revitalize an area as big as the Stampede grounds in barely a week and this large city can feel the small-town camaraderie that makes Calgary so special.

Nadine, a Tuscany resident, says she wanted to be useful to her devastated Bowness neighbours, but found it hard to offer physical labour due to her two small kids at home. After seeing her neighbours’ appliances on the front lawn, an idea began to formulate. Thinking on her feet, she grabbed three laundry baskets and started scribbling notes inside them with thick, black Sharpie marker:

laundryfairyCOPY
This might be the strangest thing you’ve ever seen written on the bottom of a laundry basket– assuming you’ve ever seen something written on a laundry basket. I’ve noticed your washer and dryer are not functional, so I’ll do your laundry. Fill this basket and call me. I’ll return it cleaned the next day. If you have the resources to wash your clothes, please pass this on to someone who doesn’t. Maybe someone with a baby or kids — they make lots of laundry. Who couldn’t use a laundry fairy for a bit?!

Nadine and her family were determined to find a way to help, she says, and after seeing the devastation herself, she wanted to get her kids involved in a safe and supportive way. The Laundry Fairy offered a much-needed service while educating her kids about compassion and caring.

“We want to get the kids involved and show them what’s going on and how lucky they are. We want to do it as a family.”

With a basin taking centre-stage in her yard, she scrubbed the silt, sludge and sewage off a neighbour’s clothes and had them back the next day — as promised. But her idea didn’t get off the ground the way she hoped it would.

“People were too proud and too Canadian to take advantage,” she says.

From then on, Nadine started heating up wet face cloths and bringing them to the volunteers and labourers in Bowness. The airplane-inspired plan has taken off in the neighbourhood, and as Bowness’ needs have tapered off, a friend from High River is borrowing her cloths and distributing them to volunteers there.

This experience, as upsetting as it may be, showed Nadine a sense of community she’s never seen before in the big city.

“I’m proud to be a Calgarian. People rallied together with a lot of kindness — which the world could use a lot more of. We lost a bit of stuff and found a community… It was amazing and unbelievable to watch.”

With a little elbow grease and a lot of caring, Calgary has come together in a way we never expected possible. United Way would like to say a big and sincere thank you to all volunteers, no matter how they are contributing to the relief efforts. Whether you are a Laundry Fairy, Face Cloth Fairy, Labour Fairy or Refreshment Fairy, you are the people who unite this city.

—Jodi Egan is a marketing and communications intern at United Way of Calgary and Area

To get involved in the relief efforts, connect with 211 to see where you can volunteer, or donate to United Way’s Emergency Community Support Fund.

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POPULARITY

after less than 48hrs, the laundry fairy has been shared over 2,000 times locally, provincially and nationally. (all numbers gathered July 11th, 2013)

The viral path:

The original story started out as a blog post for United Way of Calgary and area. Instead of publishing the story right away, I suggested teasing the photo first, because of it’s powerful nature, and then releasing the story the next day. The photo was retweeted 20 times in a few hours and CBC started calling us asking for our source’s contact information. We decided that we had achieved our goal of creating hype and published the story before CBC broke it. The story was shared and liked all over social media and quickly became our most popular post.
The original story started out as a blog post for United Way of Calgary and area. Instead of publishing the story right away, I suggested teasing the photo first, because of it’s powerful nature, and then releasing the story the next day. The photo was retweeted 20 times in a few hours and CBC started calling us asking for our source’s contact information. We decided that we had achieved our goal of creating hype and published the story before CBC broke it. The story was shared and liked all over social media and quickly became our most popular post.

About four hours after the story was originally broken on United Way's blog site, Huffington Post Alberta shared the story to their online audience. The post quickly began to flourish there as well.

As the story began to go viral, George Stroumboulopoulos shared the story on his incredibly popular blog site, twitter account, and personal facebook page (followed by over 100, 000 people). The stats speak for themselves. The story that started out as a feel-good blog post, spread across the country in a matter of hours.
As the story began to go viral, George Stroumboulopoulos shared the story on his incredibly popular blog site, Twitter account, and Facebook page (followed by over 100, 000 people). The stats speak for themselves. The story that started out as a feel-good blog post, spread across the country in a matter of hours.
Likes and shares from Strombo's Facebook page.
Likes and shares from Strombo’s Facebook page.

The story has also been spread though a plethora of radio stations, including here in Calgary and around the province. It’s also been featured on the City of Calgary’s website as well as their City News blog.

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