The story behind Bowness’s “laundry fairy”

Laundry Fairy's laundry basket in Bowness

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:

“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.