Harry, the laundromat Keeper, strives to spread positivity each day

Harry at the Calgary Centre of Hope's laundromat
by zackd

At The Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope laundromat in Calgary, men don’t just stop in to wash their clothes; they stay for the camaraderie and to share some laughs.

That’s because the Centre of Hope has something, or rather someone, that other laundromats do not – Harry Patrick (AKA “The Keeper”).

Harry has been the laundromat’s Attendant-Receptionist since May 2022, but if you ever got a chance to see the bond he’s made with his patrons, you’d think he’s been there for years. His approach to each individual is non-judgmental. When the outside world is knocking them down, Harry tries to make the laundromat a place that lifts them back up again.

“The circumstances of how they got here isn’t important,” Harry says. “It is to a point but that doesn’t make them who they are. They’re people who need a hand up.”

The Center of Hope is a men’s shelter in Calgary that helps them get back on their feet. Inside the laundromat on the building’s first floor, the environment has been described as having a barbershop feel, where men do their laundry but also share what’s happening in their lives and build connections.

“There’s one fella who’s been here four times today, and he’ll probably be back!” Harry says with a chuckle. “I look forward to seeing them. I really do.”

The positive experience is largely due to Harry’s friendly demeanour and desire to play a small part in positively influencing the men who visit him.

“Everybody needs a listening ear. They aren’t expecting me to solve their problems, just to listen to them,” he says. “What they have to say matters. We talk about all kinds of things, but a lot of things are very close to the heart.”

Harry at his desk at the Calgary Centre of Hope's laundromat

Harry tries to help people become the best versions of themselves. A lot of people lack life skills, and that’s not being critical. It’s just the truth,” he says. “If I can share my experiences…maybe I can be helpful to them.”

However, despite being unanimously considered “a good guy,” Harry stays humble and gives credit for the work he does to his faith.

“I’m just like everybody else. I’ve never done very well on my own,” he says. “God makes the impact. We’re just the instrument. I really do mean that.”

One of the joys that come with Harry’s role at the laundromat is seeing success stories. As he gets to know the men, he becomes invested in their well-being. A win for them is also a win for him in many ways.

“We had a fella come in here, and he was telling me that he’s found full-time employment, and he’s really, really happy,” Harry says. “And I’m so happy for him, I could cry about it. I love to see those things happen.”

Harry has lived in Calgary for a long time and made his living providing excavation services in the oil industry for 25 years. However, he grew up in Toronto, and that’s where his connection to The Salvation Army began approximately 60 years ago.

He says The Salvation Army was very prevalent where he grew up, and there was even a ministry across the street from his home.

In the summers during the mid-1960s, he went to The Salvation Army camp at Jackson’s Point in Ontario from age six to 12 years old. He and the boys went in July, while his sister and the girls went in August.

“I used to go for ten days every year. It used to cost one dollar. That was because they used to give you 10 cents a day for the canteen.”

Harry says working for The Salvation Army and helping others 60 years after being so involved as a child feels like coming full circle. As a boy, he was influenced by camp and the comradery that came with it. Today, he’s continuing to share that positivity with the men at the laundromat.

“There’s always been an S in my heart.”


I think I’ll go down to see the keeper today

I always enjoy hearing what he has to say

His desk, ever waiting, is not so far away

If you’d wander over, you would want to stay

Start and finish will each have its smile

The words in between may keep you a while

Softly spoken with such an eloquent style

Feels like relaxing on a tropical isle

The keeper can still be quicker than a cat

Words will enlighten. He’s been where you’re at

Conversations that feel like a comforting pat

Come on over and meet the keeper of the laundromat

– A poem shared with Harry by a patron of the laundromat