Laundry was perhaps the last thing on Katrina Freydin's mind when superstorm Sandy swept 5 feet of seawater into her Long Beach basement.
But as the days wore on, she realized the storm had claimed her washer and dryer, and that without power, local coin-operated laundries also weren't operating.
"We are two old people, my husband and I," Freydin, 64, said Tuesday. "You would think, 'Oh, big deal. Laundry,' but it's so frustrating."
She learned on Facebook that Glen Cove volunteers have been picking up laundry from Long Beach to wash at their homes and then return it in a project called Take A Load Off.
"Here's this person who's helping to normalize our lives a little," said Freydin, who has used the free service twice.
That was Kathryn Casale's intent when she organized Take A Load Off. She lost power at her Glen Cove home for 10 days, but soon after it returned, she posted on Facebook that she was collecting laundry from a drop-off point she designated in Long Beach and asked friends to pick up a load from her home to wash at theirs.
"People have lost so much that they have to trust a complete stranger with the last bit of clothes they have," said Casale, a Long Beach native.
She estimated Wednesday that she and other volunteers, mostly mothers, have handled about three dozen loads of laundry since they started Nov. 15.
The project, organized largely through Facebook, has spawned spinoff efforts in the Rockaways, Oceanside and other hard-hit areas. Businesses including Glen Street Laundromat in Glen Cove have also begun taking on loads, and cash donations have gone to buy towels for storm victims.
Casale keeps the names and contact information of program participants in a notebook, as well as detergent allergies. "We're not in the laundry business . . . but we're moms, so maybe it is our core confidence," she said.
Leigh Alexander, 38, of Long Beach, said that after the storm, she needed laundered scrubs for her surgery-resident husband and clean school clothes for her sons, 7 and 17. She was the first to use Take A Load Off and has donated detergent to the cause, and she encouraged others to give laundry supplies. "They don't even live here in Long Beach, but they're just doing everything they can to help," she said.
Freydin said she doesn't know when she can replace her washing machine and is grateful that Casale insists on delivering laundry straight to the homes of the elderly. She said, "It gives me hope that not everything's lost in the world."