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Roughly 100 volunteers do laundry for linemen working to repair power grid

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is a saying: “Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.” For Laurie Hurner, that old piece of wisdom has never been truer.

As a citrus agent in Highlands County with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, Hurner’s job requires her not only to be an expert in citrus but also an expert at networking. And in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Hurner’s many relationships in the community have been key to marshalling volunteers and gathering donations to help county residents in need.

Most recently, she’s helped connect county linemen who don’t have access to laundry facilities with roughly 100 community volunteers who have donated time, quarters and detergent to keeping their work clothes clean.

Working out of local laundry mats and even their own homes, volunteers have done about 150 loads of laundry since Saturday, Hurner said.

The laundry initiative got started when Kelsey Murray, whose husband is a lineman for Duke Energy, told her friend Heather Delong-Ogg that the camp out of which her husband was working was without laundry service. As he and his fellow linemen worked day after day to repair damage from Hurricane Irma, they were quickly running out of clean clothes.

Murray and Delong-Ogg got permission from Duke Energy to start organizing laundry volunteers. Delong-Ogg, who knows Hurner through the county 4-H youth development program, asked Hurner if she could use her community connections to recruit support.

“Kelsey and Heather contacted me to help with logistics of staying out beyond the curfew and getting in touch with laundry mats to make sure they could wash, had enough quarters and the like,” said Hurner, who is the director of UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County.

“I have rounded up parents of 4-H youth, friends and the Highlands County Cattlewomen, of which I am a member, to help volunteer. I reached out to the Highlands County Sheriff’s office, and Ag Deputy Fred Tagtmier has been a tremendous help,” Hurner said. “The city police departments are making frequent check-ins with the ladies and making sure they are safe. They also lifted the curfew for them.”

Members of the agricultural community have donated washing supplies and quarters for laundry mats, Hurner said. Two alumni of the UF/IFAS Wedgworth Leadership Institute, Staci Simms and Stanley Perry, are also helping out.

“Our volunteers are true gems,” Hurner said. “Where there is a need, they are there. Our community is small but mighty.”


By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307,

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.


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