Hey Change Maker! My guest this week is Morgan Whaley of Laundry Love Cincinnati. Laundry Love Cincinnati assists low and no-income families and individuals to meet their laundry and hygiene needs and is a part of a larger community organization called Love In Action.
We begin the podcast with an introduction to Morgan and her organization, Laundry Love Cincinnati. Morgan lives in Cincinnati with her two young girls and her husband, a pastor at a local church. Through the church, Morgan helps run a social service agency called Love in Action that supplies basic needs to individuals, families, and organizations. Love in Action partners with Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank to offer diaper and period supplies, provides mentoring and workforce development programs, and runs a weekly food pantry. The social service agency also provides free laundry services to the community across the city through a larger initiative called Laundry Love.
Laundry Love Cincinnati was launched in 2018, and Morgan officially took over as the Executive Director of the operation in December of 2019. Since its initial launch, Laundry Love Cincinnati has grown to expand to three locations in Cincinnati: Walnut Hills, Clifton, and Westwood. Once a month, each of these locations hosts a 2-hour free laundry service event where they provide community members with free laundry supplies and funds to wash clothing. Morgan credits the success and growth of Laundry Love Cincinnati to the partnerships they’ve been able to establish with local groups. Each Laundry Love Cincinnati location is partnered with a local organization or church that provides additional support and volunteers to the laundromat. Although many people typically think of coffee as the way to bring people together, Morgan emphasizes that one of the best ways to have an impact on a low-to-no income area is to start a laundromat.
Morgan describes how using a laundromat as a community space has been a game changer, as she often invites other social service organizations to come in and set up resource tables inside the laundromat. She comments on how intimidating it can be to be invited into a new space or to ask for help. Bringing in resources during the free laundry evenings is a great way to reach people who might need help but either will not or cannot ask for it. The free laundry evenings don’t require any registration – anyone can show up and clean their clothes for free, as long as they show up at least thirty minutes before the event ends. The laundromat purposefully does not check for IDs or require registration in order to lower the barrier of entry for community members. Volunteers at these free laundry evenings often bring pizza and create a kid-friendly space for children to play, draw, and engage with one another. Morgan tries to personally attend each of these events.
We shift to discussing why laundry is such an important area of focus. Morgan recalls a story of a mom in her community calling Love in Action and describing how much she needed laundry services. The laundry facilities in this woman’s building were broken, and she had been hand washing her son’s clothes. The woman realized she wasn’t getting all of the detergent out of clothes through hand washing, and as a result, her son developed skin rashes and began being bullied and picked on at school. Hearing this woman’s story truly put the community’s needs on display. Morgan also recalls how acute the need for laundry services was during the pandemic to help stop the spread of disease through bedding and clothing. She comments on how hand washing clothes with commercial-grade detergent or dishwashing liquid can leave a person feeling undignified or low, which can lead to a variety of mental health concerns.
Laundry Love Cincinnati aims to restore dignity in its community members by giving them the peace of mind that clean clothes can provide. Morgan describes how the feeling of being able to take care of dirty or soiled clothes without having to wait until the next paycheck provides a sense of security to many. Since Laundry Love Cincinnati was started in 2018, the three laundromats have washed over 50,000 pounds of laundry and service about 300 families each year. At each free laundry evening, a laundromat will serve between 30-50 people during the 2-hour event time window.
When asked what advice Morgan would give to somebody who wants to find a way to impact low-to-no income families in their community, Morgan urges listeners to just get started. She comments on how we can sometimes be our own biggest barrier. Morgan emphasizes that the work doesn’t have to be a “big production” – it can be as simple as volunteering at a food bank or local pantry, or investigating what’s going on in your own neighborhood that you can support. Morgan’s vision is to see a place where we are all in service to each other. She comments on how she wants to capture the spirit of generosity displayed during the holiday season and apply that energy all year long. Morgan emphasizes that she doesn’t want people to feel like they have to do anything to receive during a time of need. Rather, she asks that people pay it forward whenever they do get back on their feet.
As we wrap up the episode, I ask who inspires Morgan and why. Morgan talks about her husband as an inspiration to her. She describes how she is always amazed by the genuine love he has for other people, and how that spirit has rubbed off on her as well. Her husband partners with her in the things she does out in the community, pushing her to move forward with her work and committing to the community for the long-run. When asked how listeners can partner with her to change the world, Morgan encourages listeners local to Cincinnati to come volunteer at either Love in Action’s food pantry or one of the Laundry Love Cincinnati locations. Listeners can visit www.weloveinaction.org or www.laundrylovecinci.org to learn more and get involved.