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Hope & Soap: Awash in compassion for seniors

April 08, 2021 | Community

Two masked Aetna representatives provide free laundry products from a table stocked with products.

The pandemic challenged Aetna Medicare community outreach teams to find creative ways to positively impact seniors in low-income areas. Enter Hope & Soap, where we sponsor senior appreciation days in local laundromats.

“It’s a unique way to help our neighbors in need and meet them where they live,” said National Director for Medicare Community Outreach Ricardo Maldonado. “Having clean clothes is a part of wellness. It provides a sense of humanity and helps people feel better about themselves. It’s an opportunity to show how we can support their wellness.”

Ricardo witnessed seniors’ appreciation firsthand while helping Aetna Medicare Community Lead Generators Quiche Jones and Karen Rodriguez at their weekly Hope & Soap events throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, respectively. Karen brought the idea last year to Ricardo, who shared it nationally. Since then, Aetna Medicare teams have held events in Nevada, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, West Virginia, California, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

“Although most people have laundries in their homes or apartments, we know active seniors still go to laundromats,” Quiche explained. “Especially during COVID-19, it gives them a chance to get out and go to a safe place where they can relax, watch tv and use the free wi-fi while they wait for their laundry. Laundromats are becoming community hubs, and through them we’re making a difference.”

Two masked Aetna representatives provide free laundry products from a table stocked with products.
Aetna Medicare colleagues Quiche Jones (left) and Broker Manager Michele Barroqueiro-Sims stand ready to help seniors with their laundry at the E-Laundryland in Camden, New Jersey.

Flyers and word of mouth help spread the news of an upcoming event, where Karen and Quiche provide free laundry detergent, bleach, dryer sheets and snacks. During Valentine’s Day week, they made it festive with chocolates and balloons. They’re also planning something special on Mother’s Day.

The events benefit both seniors and laundromat owners. “Seniors are surprised and happy that we pay for their washes,” said Karen. “We’re happy to answer their insurance questions and help them learn how Medicare and Medicaid work together. The owners appreciate the extra foot traffic and the service we’re providing the community. I’m humbled to be able to help our neighbors.”

These grassroots efforts create lasting impressions. “I enjoy pampering seniors,” Quiche admitted. “People come as strangers and leave as friends.” One exchange sticks with her. “I saw a homeless man help a woman with her laundry. He asked if I could wash his clothes, too. Although this event was for seniors, how could I say no? He was so happy and asked when I was coming back so he could help me out then. I drove away in tears, so happy this is my job.”