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Love Girls Magazine - Because Every Girl Has A Story


Operation Share the Load: Helping Families in Need Afford a Day at the Laundromat

By: Maggie Leach, Creator of Operation Share the Load

During the summer of 2012 my family went on quite an adventure. We sold our home and accepted an offer which meant we had to move out before our new home was ready. So we found ourselves moving into an Extended Stay hotel for most of the summer. I was eight years old, and I was about to experience my first time living among families who worked full-time and were still homeless.

The Extended Stay hotel was not what I expected when we moved in. There was no pool, no sitting area with free breakfast, no place to play. We moved into a room with two beds, one bathroom and a small kitchenette. We had to prioritize what we needed because we did not have room for everything we wanted. My parents also pointed out that we would need to wash our clothing at a laundromat.

The laundromat was a busy place, and the first thing my parents had to do was get quarters for the machines. My parents explained to me that you have to pay to use the machines each time you use them. You need money for the washer and you need money for the dryer. Being eight and curious, I walked around the laundromat with my brother and watched the machines spin soapy water around, and I watched the people come and go.

Each weekend at the laundromat I noticed that more people came with what looked like a month’s worth of laundry to be done and many of them didn’t finish washing all of their clothing. One day I stood by my mom as she chatted with another mom while they were folding clothes, and I heard about how their family was living in their van. The family waited until payday, and they would wash what they could afford to wash, but only enough so they still had money for food. That night I asked my mom more about the family and about the other people I had seen at that laundromat. I didn’t think it was right that people had to choose between food on the table or clean clothing.

I started to notice the people living in the hotel with us. As I became more aware, my family pointed out that some residents lived inside the hotel for part of the month, and then they lived in their cars behind the hotel for the rest of the month when the money ran out. I told my mom I wanted to help people by “buying them free laundry” (in the words of my eight year old self). I was serious and I wanted my family to help me do something to help others. By the end of the summer, “Operation Share the Load” was born.

My family read an article about “National Make a Difference Day” that was created in 1992 by USA Today, on the fourth Saturday in October. We decided this was a great way to do a small fundraiser for quarters and laundry supplies. In the fall of 2012, my parents helped me use social media to raise over $200 in quarters. We drove straight to the laundromat where we had spent so many weekends and greeted every customer with a roll of quarters and free supplies. A certain lady began to cry, saying “Am I on Candid Camera?” I told her “no” and it was National Make a Difference Day and we were making a difference. She started to cry again and said, “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me”. That was the moment I knew I was going to keep Operation Share the Load going for as long as I could.

Since 2017, I have partnered with IMPACT CAP of Marion County and the Pella Food Shelf to provide families in Marion County with more than $2000 in quarters and laundry supplies. In 2017, Tide found out about my program, and they donated hundreds of dollars worth of detergent. That’s a Tide Pod Challenge I can get behind!

When I learned about LOVE Girls, Inc. and LOVE Girls Magazine from friends of mine, I was interested. This past fall I applied for a grant so that I could share the LOVE and the load in the Quad Cities. I am proud to announce that I am a $500 grant winner, and I am looking forward to helping girls at Rock Island High School receive Operation Share the Load bags with laundry supplies and financial support to wash their clothing.

Next fall I will hold my 9th annual drive. National Make a Difference Day is no longer a corporate sponsored event, but I still deliver all of my donations on the fourth Saturday in October. It’s the spirit of that day that has helped me grow Operation Share the Load from a little idea to a program that has helped many families in more than one state. Thanks to family and community support, I can truly say that you are never too little to make a big difference in the world.

Photo of a laundry basket containing various clotheswashing supplies