The East Mississippi State Hospital Laundry was established in May 1973.
It has a rich history that will come to light during a ribbon cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. on May 1 at the Bradley A. Sanders Adolescent Complex, EMSH. An open house celebrating the long awaited move to the new laundry will follow. The public is invited to attend to view and tour this newest addition to the EMSH campus.
Susie Broadhead, public relations director for EMSH, has been researching the laundry and urges the public to attend the ceremony to welcome the opening of this 21st Century facility.
"We are expecting most of our area state Legislators as well as our elected city and county officials along with representatives of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health and those involved in the construction of the laundry to attend along with a host of former and retired EMSH laundry employees," said Broadhead. "Our new laundry building opened on February 20 of this year. It was in the planning stages for several years, and the $4.2 million appropriated by the Mississippi State Legislature has produced a state of the art work area for the 20 employees who think that they are now working in paradise!"
Fred Poitevent, a shareholder of Meridian’s Troy Laundry, donated equipment from The Troy after the laundry incurred a fire in the early 70s. The Troy, owned by Meridian’s Emmons family, had been doing the laundry for both EMSH and Matty Hersee Hospital at the time of the fire. Following the fire, The Troy shareholders voted to sell their property to the City of Meridian for the construction of the current City of Meridian Police Station. Poitevent was asked by Dr. Reginald P. White, the EMSH director, to come out to EMSH and not only set up a laundry on site, but also to run it.
"Mr. Fred, as he was affectionately called by all because no one could pronounce his last name, brought with him several employees from The Troy and those employees became state employees," said Broadhead. "Ervin Baylor, who retired in 2011, drove the laundry truck for The Troy and was among the original employees. Some of these former employees will be on hand at the ceremony."
In her research of the laundry's history, Broadhead found where the building that first housed the laundry was only used for a few years. A larger space was needed so the department was moved to the EMSH Boiler Building and it remained there until February 19, 2013.
For 30 years the equipment in the original laundry shook, rattled, and rolled, but it did the job to pristinely clean every piece of laundry, including patient clothing. Massive boilers generated steam that ran through pipes overhead and all around and a working return system used rinse water for a first wash cycle.
"I like to ask people about whether or not they sleep on pressed sheets at night," Broadhead said. "When 99 percent of those people say no, I immediately tell them that those we serve at EMSH do!"
The new laundry building is 14,500 square feet and it took 21 months to build. Incorporating the latest technology in laundry services, such as ozone injection into the wash cycles and water reuse, the ozone sanitizes the wash without hot water, bleach, or large amounts of detergent. There is an emergency generator on site that is capable of running the entire laundry and all of the equipment during a power outage.
"All of this equipment will be on display at the event on Wednesday," said Broadhead. "Something else that will be on display will be the wooden laundry baskets that were used right up until moving day. Those baskets will be laden with horticulture plants that have been grown by our Individuals Receiving Services."