With laundry service, a group for disabled people benefits the community

The Marion County Disability Action Center in West Virginia has launched the Feel Good Laundry service, which also gives opportunities to the group's clients.

Kelsie LeRose/Times-West Virginian/AP
Outside the Disability Action Center in Fairmont, W.Va., volunteer laundry assistant Amy Tatterson (r.) and job coach Chrissy Heldreth load a van for a delivery on Feb. 15. The Feel Good Laundry service lends a hand to area residents.

As its name implies, the Marion County Disability Action Center in West Virginia offers services and programs to disabled people and their families. But it aims to benefit many other members of the community, too.

Its newest program, the Feel Good Laundry service, lends a hand to working families and older residents, among others.

"We not only do the laundry. We go and get it; we sort it; we wash it, dry it and sort it again," said Chrissy Heldreth, job coach in the laundry room. "We sort it by men, women and children. That way it is easier when we deliver it; they can just pick it up and put it away."

So far, the service has more than a dozen customers, Heldreth said, and it does about 10 to 15 loads of laundry.

"A working mom does not want to go home to get laundry done," she said. "We have it all done for them, and we bring it back and drop it off. They are extremely happy."

Heldreth added that those at the organization are enjoying participating in the laundry service.

"It is a community; it is a family," she said.

DAC Executive Director Julie Sole said the laundry service started with a soft opening about two years ago.

"We have had the washers, dryers and all of the equipment back there – from the folders to the steamers ... but we primarily used [them] for teaching independent living skills, teaching laundry, also [for] helping with fine and gross motor skills and for our clients to gain independence," she said.

Other than using the laundry equipment once a week or twice a month, the equipment sat idle, which Sole said is why they started the service for the community.

"In the summer of 2015, we primarily marketed the really local places to us.... We really tapped into some seniors," who became part of a pilot project, she said. "After we gained a couple regular customers that way, we then branched out to more businesses and ... working [families]."

The service started on a volunteer basis, but Sole said they now have two employees.

"We are using it for both job training and employment. As the trainees hone their skills, we are able to place them in [a] paid position once the amount of work lends itself to hiring more people."

Heldreth said they want to keep growing so they can hopefully employ more of the organization's clients.

"It helps them get a paycheck. It gives them work experience, and they feel good about themselves," she said.

Amy Tatterson said she enjoys volunteering in laundry, and her favorite parts are folding clothes and helping people in the community.

"It's a lot of fun," she said. "They are nice people."

Heldreth said clients are also learning customer-service skills.

"The customers love seeing us come too," she said. "We have bonded with some of the customers. We have an elderly lady in an apartment building, and even the people in the apartment buildings, when they see me coming, they will tell me jokes and say hi. I think they wait for us to come."

The pickup and delivery service is available for residential and commercial members of the community.

According to the service's flyer, "By choosing to support an individual with disabilities in the workforce you not only receive a quality service, but you create an environment to 'Feel good, do good and live good.' "

Sole added the DAC is so much more than people with disabilities, and officials want to bring more people to the center to see the value of everyone.

Residential prices for the service are: $1.25/pound of clothes with one-time fee. With a plan sign-up, it's $40 a month for up to 50 pounds of clothes.

Starch and ironing are available at an additional cost.

"We do anything from socks to bedding," Heldreth said. "There is not much we don't do."

Customers can supply their own detergent if they chose, but the DAC supplies Tide products. An all-natural detergent option is available as well.

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