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Carlos Vasquez owns First Professional Cleaners, a business that has helped thousands of people with one small act of kindness: free dry cleaning.
When the 2008 recession hit, Vasquez noticed a change in the community. The unemployment rate was the highest it had been in decades, and people were finding it hard to make ends meet. "I wanted to give back," the Bronx, N.Y. resident said. "I wanted to do something for my community, something out of our heart."
So he put a sign up in the window that read: "If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for FREE." Customers trickled in, but once the word got out, the Upper East Side dry cleaner was overwhelmed with requests.
Still, Vasquez kept his word and offered his services free of charge. "I have never, ever turned anyone down," he added.
Unsurprisingly, Vazquez's benevolence is contagious. The business owner has received donations from all over the country, including one from Detroit, Mich. that brings tears to his eyes. "It makes you feel a little soft inside," he explains.
Following First Professional's lead, other dry cleaners in the city (and beyond) are now offering free services for unemployed individuals. Vasquez supports this wholeheartedly, but he doesn't plan on taking down his original sign any time soon. "It's who I am," he said.