The women at the front of TurneyTown Coin Laundry in Garfield Heights sit around a table waiting for their wash cycles to finish, laughing and talking excitedly over the slush of suds and tumble of dryers.
This, explains Woodhill Homes resident Angela Eddins, is “for a woman what a barber shop is for a man.
“You get to mingle and talk, spend some time with your neighbors,” she says.
It’s laundry day for the Woodhill Co-op, a coalition of neighbors based in Woodhill Homes focused on making laundry facilities available to residents in the public housing complex located on Woodland Avenue east of East 105th Street.
The co-op was founded in 2019. Here’s how: Morgan Bulger, a student at Case Western Reserve University earning her Ph.D. in organizational behavior, worked with a group of resident ambassadors to survey their Woodhill Homes neighbors about unmet needs. The answer was resounding: there were no laundry facilities available to the more than 500 families living in the complex.
Bulger and residents of Woodhill Homes launched the Woodhill Co-op, which distributes supplies such as detergent and dryer sheets and hosts laundry days at coin laundromats every three to four months. The co-op members’ long-term goal is to open their own laundromat in the neighborhood.
“It was an idea to meet some needs that came out of a resident survey as well as the aspirations of the community: needs for laundry access, interest in entrepreneurship, interest in community building and just wanting to be engaging in things that bring people together,” Bulger says.
Donations and grant money from sources such as the Saint Luke’s Foundation and Neighborhood Connections allow the co-op to pay members $20 per hour and provide transportation, supplies and a $40 preloaded laundry card to about 50 participants. (Neighborhood Connections provides support for Cleveland Documenters.)
“I love laundry day,” Sunnethia Graham, a Woodhill Homes resident, says at the laundromat. It isn’t just about the laundry, it’s about the people, she explains.
In addition to laundromat costs, Graham says, transportation was a major obstacle to completing her laundry without the group’s help.
“Gas is expensive,” she says. “I would get a friend who could afford to come out here and use their gas up.”
Woodhill Homes has since opened a pay-to-use laundry room, but many residents complain the few washers and dyers aren’t enough for a complex with so many families.
“Doing laundry and having clean clothes, that’s important health-wise but also how people feel about themselves,” says Marilyn Burns, a member of the co-op and a Woodhill Homes resident.
In addition to a laundromat, the co-op plans to open a cafe and community gathering space. Members would share profits and make decisions together. In the meantime, Bulger says, the group is working on bylaws with the assistance of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
“We want to help people in the present however we can,” Bulger says. “Everything we’ve done, we’ve done as a group.”