Marilyn Burns and Leah Ross: Starting a Community Laundry Co-op

You might be familiar with food co-ops or housing co-ops. But how about a laundry co-op? A group of community members in the Woodhill neighborhood of Cleveland are starting just that. Marilyn Burns and Leah Ross are part of a group of residents who, through surveys and outreach, learned that a majority of their neighbors do not have access to a nearby washer or dryer. This may seem like a small thing, but it’s such a fundamental and basic component of human dignity. Being able to show up at school or a job with clean clothes—especially during this time of COVID when everyone is more attuned to hygiene concerns—should be something everyone’s able to do.

Accordingly, Burns and Ross are collaborating with neighbors to get a cooperative laundromat started. In this interview, hosted by Strong Towns Program Director Rachel Quednau, Burns and Ross get into what it’s like to start a neighborhood-based effort like this one. They talk about all the important steps along the way, including gathering people together, doing your research, finding funding, and building support for the effort—always rooted in a dedication to listening to neighbors’ needs rather than dictating an outcome. It’s community engagement in the truest sense, from the bottom-up.

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