The WASH project has found a temporary new home on Grant Street. The WASH Project got its start (and its name) when it set up shop at a laundry facility on Massachusetts Avenue. The organization’s co-founder, Barrett Gordon, and building owner and co-founder Zaw Win, realized that they could create a hands-on community hub in a utilitarian place where people felt comfortable.
By introducing socially conscious programming in such an atmosphere, Barrett and Zaw felt that the community would come together to teach and learn from one another. They was right. The center became a hub where immigrants, refugees and neighbors would come to learn how to fix bikes, read and write, draw and paint, work on projects, talk about issues, play pool, socialize, and even do their laundry. To me, The WASH Project is not only brilliant, it’s necessary. The WASH Project represents everything that is great about Buffalo. It’s inclusive. It’s timely. It’s Forward thinking. It’s driven by ordinary people with extraordinary passion for others.
Now The WASH Project is on the move. In order to allow the building owner to fix up the building, the organization pulled up stakes and is now temporarily located at 593 Grant Street. The thought is that they will return to 417 Massachusetts Avenue after two years time. Thankfully, they lucked out when Greenleaf Development volunteered to take them under its wing. This occurred when People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) offered to help with stabilization efforts on the Grant Street building, in order to secure the temporary home for WASH. Both groups share similar community interests and goals.
The community has come to rely on The WASH Project for so many things, that it would have been unbearable to see the space and the programming completely disappear.
“Paring down our mixed use operation/s until 2018 should allow us to hone in on our respectively different elements,” said Barrett. “We’re working over the next year to strengthen our commitment to our arts and human services driven programs, and spending the following year updating and rightsizing our business plan, as we prepare to reboot the laundromat. Inevitably, it will also be a time of growth and reflection, and one can only imagine where that will take us.”
It also happens (purely coincidence) that the organization’s new home on Grant Street is kitty corner to a laundromat, which means that members of the Burmese community, for example, will still be able to wash their clothes and take advantage of WASH’s community services and multicultural opportunities. Once reopened on Friday, September 30 at 11am, children and adults will find an arts studio, an arts-reference-children’s library, a re-felted pool table, and a computer lab. All of WASH’s critical programming will also fall into place at that time.
What could have been a real problem for The WASH Project could even be a blessing in disguise. Grant Street is a high profile location that will draw more people utilize the space and the services. In the end, maybe we’ll get two WASH Projects in the end, depending on increased resources and funding. Often times, in order to garner financial support for these types of initiatives, disruptions must occur. Let’s hope that this temporary disruption allows The WASH Project to not only survive over the next couple of years, but thrive for decades to come.
Photos: The WASH Project