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December 12, 2017
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Brothers open up laundry center during evacuation

By: Irene Hilsendager
November 17, 2017

While Santa Rosa and other areas of Sonoma and Napa Counties were burning, two brothers were asking themselves how can we volunteer living in Petaluma and Rohnert Park — Bryan and Joe Patterson found the answer to this question by opening up a laundry center for fire evacuees. 

The two brothers, sons of Darren and Vickie Patterson and Katie Chelini, were brought up in a very caring home and knew that something had to be done. Since their service appliance store was not big enough to house evacuees, they had to think of another innovative way to serve as volunteers.

The Patterson’s grew up in Petaluma but went to high school in Rohnert Park and Bryan —having been a part of Rotaract growing up, the “service above self” mantra kept creeping into their minds. 

Near their appliance store, New Life Church, one of the first to open a shelter located on Clegg Street in Petaluma, became an evacuation center. Standing in their store front, glancing around, they became inspired with knowing what they could do. Along the back wall stood 12 industrial washing machines, why not ask the church if they could help by doing laundry for the center? 

The gentlemen offered their services by taking the used towels, blankets, sheets and pillows and washing the items for hours on end and returning them to the center. They would load their pick-up trucks and rush to the church in order for the clients to have clean linens after taking their showers. It was a tremendous task these two brothers took on. 

The pair washed over 60 loads a day and night and transported the items back to the church. Bryan said of their effort, “I would sleep on the couch in the office during the night and keep the washing machines going so the evacuees would have clean towels.” Getting up at 4 a.m. each day and working around the clock wore both of them to the bones after the first week. Many a time the showers would be clogged at the center and one of them would have to open drains before any showers could be taken. It was costing a great deal of money for water, electricity and soaps. Eventually, other volunteers would give donations so the men could pay for the utilities. 

Bryan and Joe said doing the volunteer work for the people that were in the shelter was “awesome.” However, neglecting their business sort of put the store out of commission and now they have to play catch-up and get back on their feet. But the brothers said you have to work out a balance and it will all even out in the end. 

Bryan, being single, was in the military however he never was deployed. Joe is married and has a family. They have now decided too many animals were at the shelter and with no way to harness them into one spot, the men are building temporary fences for dogs so the animals would be able to go outside to roam and stretch their legs. Bryan said he was grateful for all of the assistance that was given to them especially folding laundry, but with the help of Allie Hunter and a few others, they full-filled their obligation to volunteering. Now this is what we call “service above self.”