Issue: March/April 2010
Community Impact Awards: Clean Sensation
Evergreen Cooperative Laundry washes away the barriers to business ownership.
The future is looking as bright as the freshly washed linens at Evergreen Cooperative Laundry in Glenville, and nobody is happier than its employee-owners.
The commercial laundry business, part of ShoreBank Enterprise Group, Cleveland, follows a unique cooperative model that allows employees, many of whom live in the low-income areas around University Circle, to own a stake in the company after six months of employment.
“In this neighborhood, most people don’t even own their own automobiles, so it’s exciting,” says laundry supervisor Medrick Addison, who grew up in Glenville. “Everybody wants to be part of the American Dream, own something, be able to sit on a Board and have a say in everyday operations.”
The commercial laundry opened last fall to serve large institutions in Greater University Circle, such as hospitals and assisted living homes, and is already on target to clean more than 10 million pounds of bed sheets, blankets and gowns annually. Currently, Evergreen employs seven workers, but at full capacity it will employ as many as 50.
Evergreen Cooperative Laundry is part of ShoreBank’s Evergreen Cooperative Development Fund. The Cleveland Foundation invested $3 million in a revolving-loan fund to launch the cooperatives.
So far, the fund includes Ohio Cooperative Solar, an energy company that installs solar panels. Another venture, Green City Growers Cooperative, is a greenhouse that is planned to launch later in 2010.
The businesses follow an employee ownership model and are as environmentally friendly as possible. Evergreen Cooperative Laundry uses more than four times less water per pound of laundry than average.
Many of Evergreen’s employees previously had difficulty finding work. Tracie Marsh could not find permanent employment because of a felony assault charge on her record, but Evergreen has given her the chance to start over.
“I feel good waking up knowing I have a place to come to and a paycheck waiting,” she says. “It gives me hope.”
Mienyon Smith can see the positive impact Evergreen Cooperative Laundry is having on the community through the increase of jobs, wealth and money circulation.
“I take the name ‘Evergreen’ and compare it to, in the springtime, everything is green,” says Smith. “Green is everywhere, and that’s what we’re looking forward to in the future.”
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