Lower Price Hill gets a 'big-scissors' day

Lower Price Hill gets a 'big-scissors' day
Lower Price Hill gets a 'big-scissors' day
Lower Price Hill gets a 'big-scissors' day
Posted at 3:58 PM, May 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 16:40:16-04

Editor's note about Changemakers: This is the part of a continuing series of stories and columns about people and places fostering change in our communities.

CINCINNATI - On Wednesday evening, Mary Knauff-Delaney was on a serious hunt. She needed scissors, but not just any kind. Those really big kind that you see politicians and business-suited folks flashing around when they cut the ribbon for fancy new buildings.

"I finally called the city - they have to have those, right?," said Knauff-Delaney, co-founder and vice president at Lower Price Hill-based Community Matters. "I really want those big scissors."

For Community Matters and residents in Lower Price Hill, Thursday was indeed a big-scissors kind of day. Dozens turned out for the grand opening the Washing Well -- a nonprofit laundromat and cooperative.

Community Matters celebrated the grand opening of the Washing Well on Thursday.

Last year, Knauff-Delaney shared with me a big dirty truth to life in Lower Price Hill where 90 percent of residents rent their home and few have access to an onsite laundry facility.

Nearly a decade ago, the neighborhood laundromat closed, which means the closest laundry facility is a 14-minute bus ride away.

Once you factor in a $3.50 bus ride each way and $3 per load of laundry, it’s estimated residents in Lower Price Hill spend nearly $28.50 for each trip to the laundromat. That’s more than $100 a month, and roughly $1,368 a year, for residents who on average earn just $9,600 annually, according to Community Matters, which  began studying the dilemma more than two years ago.

“This really puts a squeeze on their budget, and the more we investigated, the more we learned about how great the need is,” Knauff-Delaney told me.


                  Mary Knauff, of Community Matters.(Phil Didion/WCPO)

As the nonprofit began listening to their neighbors -- stories of residents’ laundry woes came pouring in. Some said they turned to their bathtubs and sinks to keep their clothes clean. Others shared that it’s often “cheaper to buy donated clothes at a thrift shop and throw them out once they’re soiled than it is to go to the laundromat,” she said.

The nonprofit searched for fixes, but it was quickly clear that a private laundromat operator wouldn't be lured to neighborhood – “at least not in the short run,” Knauff said.

“So we had to ask ourselves the harder question:' Is this something we could do?'” she said.

Turns out, it was.


              Newly installed washer hook-ups at the Washing Well. (Phil Dideon/WCPO)

Funded in large part by a $100,000 grant from Impact 100,the Washing Well's doors will now officially be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. - staffed by two employees who live in the neighborhood.

Customers can earn credits to offset their laundry costs by donating time with Community Matters, or by volunteering and participating in other programs offered by its sister nonprofit Education Matters.

“The whole point here is to use the Washing Well as a way to engage the residents,” Knauff-Delaney said. "Not everyone walks into our doors looking to volunteer, but they'll walk in here now looking to do their laundry and they'll find out about all the opportunities we have for them."

Beyond Laundry, More Big-Scissors Days Ahead

Community Matters investment in Lower Price Hill extends well beyond the Washing Well.

Along with its sister nonprofit, Education Matters, the groups recently completed a $10 million renovation of their campus and offices at the St. Michael the Archangel Church at 2104 St. Michael St. with the help LISC, the nonprofit qualified for a federal tax credit program that covered much of the project.

Looking ahead, the group has purchased 17 other neighborhood buildings Knauff said are poised for renovation into affordable apartments in the future.

“We have this beautiful housing stock here that’s crumbling around the residents and something needs to be done,” Knauff said. “Over time, we think these projects could have a huge impact and really change some things here.”