It’s Giving Tuesday, and we think it’s a good time to acknowledge those who give all year long. Local workwear brand DOLAN has been doing so for the past few years by making masks for healthcare workers during the pandemic, and creating the non-profit The Laundry Truck LA, which provides mobile laundry services to the homeless — one pound for every purchase made. This year alone, they’ve washed over 60,000 lbs of clothing for the unhoused in Los Angeles. For this Giving Tuesday spotlight on The Laundry Truck LA, we asked founder Jodie Dolan about her company and what drove her to give back in this novel but essential way.

LA WEEKLY: You started your company DOLAN in 2004. How did it come about and evolve?  

JODIE DOLAN: I started in my garage right out of college, interested in being an entrepreneur and secretly looking for a way to express my creativity.  By 2018, our team had grown into a super smart, creative, agile and dedicated team with a huge heart. We founded our non-profit The Laundry Truck LA, a mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness, to address a crisis we saw building up around us. This is when we found out we could take care of our community in such a meaningful and fundamental way through clean clothing. This has helped reshape how we would approach everything we do.

How did the pandemic inspire you to pivot production and create masks, and what has been the result of doing so?  

Early on in 2020, the city of Los Angeles reached out and asked us to make/donate masks for our local family groceries & bodegas that didn’t have protection. We jumped right in, with our design team to figure out how to make comfortable, functional masks. We initially used all our dead stock fabric inventory and ended up making hundreds of thousands of masks here in L.A. and eventually donating over 100,000. It was right in our wheelhouse of using design to solve everyday real-world problems and injecting our vision of joy and optimism in the process. This went viral and we were lucky enough to be connected to healthcare professionals from all over the country asking us to make create all sorts of custom things for them.

(Courtesy DOLAN)

What is your approach to designing PPE for medical workers and caregivers? 

We take the same approach to making PPE as we do to scrubs. In addition to masks we produced hundreds of thousands of L1 and L2 hospital gowns here in Los Angeles, while we as a country were struggling with our supply chain and the enormous challenges of bringing PPE into the country. We understand the complexity and necessity of the high level of production standards as real world health concerns are at stake and we’re humbled to able to do this.

What has been your donation record and why was it important to you to give back? Tell us about the one-for-one programs? 

At the beginning, it was very important to us that we ‘sold’ these as a donation item & didn’t look to profit off of them. In addition to our one for one, we asked everyone to donate the amount they could afford. Many donated over and above allowing us to be able to ship to those who didn’t have the means. We looked at this as a contribution to the safety and health of our community and our country. What we experienced was one of the most heartfelt things I have ever seen. Many of our customers jumped right in and donated directly to get these masks in the hands of people that needed it most. We found ourselves in the middle of a community that wanted to support each other, and we were lucky enough to facilitate this massive effort.   In the end, we ended up donating over 100,000 masks to senior centers, schools, hospitals, front line workers, mental health institutions, shelters, grocery stores.

(Courtesy DOLAN)

The Laundry Truck LA is such a great idea! How did that come about?  What was your vision for it? 

Our team spent a lot of time together volunteering in 2016/17 on skid row. We were all incredibly moved by the people we met and the relationships we were building and wanted to find a way to help as a company. Skid row led to volunteering with The Shower of Hope, and it was there that I recognized folks were taking showers, having this transformative experience, only to have to put their dirty clothes back on. This is when we realized with our connection to clothing and understanding the power of clean clothing, we could build a mobile laundry service to meet the community where they are and wash their clothes. Our vision is to continue to grow and scale our services to support the need. We currently have 2 trucks here in Los Angeles and are talking about adding additional cities. We are also actively sharing how we did it, our plans, our budgets, and our suppliers to anyone who is interested in starting one in their own city.

What does the future hold for you and DOLAN?

My goal is to use business to help as many people as we can. We have plans to revolutionize some practices in the Health Care Industry – more to come on this in 2022. We want to continue to lift people up through finding solutions to everyday problems and creating solutions for everybody.

Learn more about DOLAN and The Laundry Truck LA here.

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