Real-life stories

Christine Dryden – Laundry Assistant

Employee Christine Dryden
Job Laundry Assistant
Sector Retail and local services
Company Coin Op Laundrettes Ltd
Working has given me something to get up in the morning for. It’s given me my self-respect back, my self-esteem.

Introduction

The Coin Op Launderette in Bradford is a warm and friendly place. Laundry Assistant Christine Dryden chats to regulars and new customers – everyone is welcomed and offered a cup of tea or coffee while they do their washing. On the wall hangs a picture a local girl drew for Christine.

It’s hard to imagine when you see her bustling cheerfully around the launderette, but just a few months ago Christine was deeply depressed. She hadn’t worked for many years because of health problems due to angina, rheumatoid arthritis and serious spinal damage. She has also had a stroke and is in constant pain.

Lifeline

However, starting the job in the launderette has helped Christine tremendously with her depression: “It’s made a heck of a difference. I feel like they threw me a lifeline. There is a future for everybody; you’ve just got to take that first step.”

Employer's story

Adam Patel runs the Coin Op Launderette. Christine looks after the launderette for two hours a day, whilst he takes his children to school. He says that the arrangement is working out well: “Christine lives around the corner – it’s ideal for me. She opens up in the morning, gives change to customers and so on.”

Adam is also pleased with Christine’s work: “She’s a good worker, hardworking and very good with the customers. She’s very popular in the area – people ask for her when she’s not here.”

Adam didn’t need to make any particular adjustments for Christine. He was looking for someone reliable whom he could trust to open up and manage the launderette while he’s not there – Christine fitted the bill perfectly.

Message to other employers

“I’d say to other employers, observe how disabled people work – let them show what they can do.”

Adam Patel, Manager, Coin Op Launderettes Ltd

Employee's story

Christine started her working life as a cook in the army. Later, while she was bringing up her children, she had a series of part-time jobs but was unemployed for about 12 years before starting at the launderette.

New Horizons

However, Christine was determined to get back into work and describes the moment when she decided to take action: “You feel as if you’re the only one, as if you’re useless. One day I was just crying, crying, crying – my daughter was really worried about me. I said, ‘I’ve got to do something. I’m going to see if I can get a job.’”

Through Jobcentre Plus, Christine went to the Horizons programme run by a local training company. The course aims to give structure back to people’s lives and build confidence. “I thought I’d never do a week,” says Christine. “Like anywhere, the first day you’re terrified.”

Enthusiastic employee

When Christine finished the Horizons course she saw an advertisement for the Laundry Assistant post in the window. She started work in September 2007.  

Christine is full of ideas for improving the business, such as offering a collection and drop-off service, especially for her older customers who are sometimes unwell. “And when the kiddies come in, [ I give them ] colouring books and crayons – to keep them quiet.”

She likes her job, but it takes its toll: “When I go home I take some more painkillers and have to lie down for a couple of hours – then I’m back on my feet again. I’ve got two dogs – I take them out for a walk. I try to keep myself going. I’m not giving in, it’s not going to beat me. I can do it.”

Brighter future

Christine’s now taking NVQs in English, maths and IT. She says she won’t leave the launderette – “I’d never let Adam down because he gave me my chance.” Once she’s got her qualifications she’d like to find a second part-time job to do in the afternoon. 

Christine was thrilled to win an award from the European Social Fund, recognising what she’s achieved. She’s enjoying life and is positive about the future. 
“I’m just pleased I am where I am. I feel like I’ve won the lottery. I’m happy now. I’m not miserable, I’m happy.”

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Christine, outside Coin Op Laundrettes Ltd, Bradford, with her European Social Fund award.

Christine Dryden

Christine, loading up one of the dryers

Christine, talking