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Jehovah’s Witnesses


The Bethel Laundry: Everything From Kitchen Rags to Silk Ties

Young men and women at the United States branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses give of their time and energy to wash an estimated 1,800 tons of laundry each year at three affiliated complexes in Brooklyn, Patterson, and Wallkill, New York. The quantity alone is staggering. What makes this task unique, though, is the wide range of items that the workers process.

Each workday, those living at the United States Bethel complexes send more than 11,000 pieces of clothing to the Bethel laundries—2,300 shirts and 650 pairs of slacks, as well as socks, underwear, and T-shirts. They also send 900 additional items that need to be dry-cleaned.

Arriving, too, are mountains of linen, including sheets, towels, and blankets, along with waiters’ uniforms and cleaning rags. All need to be washed, dried, and delivered. Items such as rags are cleaned in bulk, while delicate silk ties and blouses are handled individually.

Laundry workers check every garment for tears or missing buttons. If a button needs to be replaced, an automated machine does the job, or it is sewn on by hand. If a garment needs a repair or minor alteration, an expert fixes the problem.

To keep track of the thousands of garments being processed, a machine stamps each item with a small label that has a unique bar code. The bar code enables garments to be automatically sorted so that cleaned, pressed clothes may be delivered to the individual residences of the United States Bethel family.

New laundry workers receive training from skilled fellow workers. A trainee may learn up to 20 different assignments. One seemingly simple job that takes time to master is spot removal. A new worker must gain an in-depth knowledge of fabrics and how they react to different treatments and techniques.

Tajh, who has worked in the laundry for a year and a half, says of those he works with, “The camaraderie is great—working with people from different backgrounds is enjoyable.” Shelly, another worker, says, “It’s a privilege to help keep our Bethel family looking sharp.”