By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — Through the eight-month Leadership Marshfield program, participants gain an acute awareness of what Marshfield has to offer. Using monthly educational segments, including a two-day retreat, members of the program are provided insights on the community’s quality of life, education, public safety, local government, health care, businesses, and economic development.
“At one of the days where we visited St. Vincent de Paul, the presenter was telling us how many kids go to school with dirty clothing, and it is because they can’t afford to do their laundry,” said Marnie Peterson. “That really just stuck with our group, and we wanted to do something that could help people.”
“After that day, our group met with area food pantries and guidance counselors, and we did learn there was a need for assisting financially struggling families with laundering their clothes,” added Ashley Winch.
Peterson, Winch, Becki Balz, Sara Bloczynski, and Kurt Officer formed a project group as part of the 2012-2013 Leadership Marshfield class to address this problem.
“After exploring different options, the group approached John Baltus about converting some of the washers and dryers at his north-side Laundromat into accepting tokens,” explained Winch. “John was a vital asset in making the project happen and continues to help the project to this day. Baltus donates a portion of the costs incurred from the washers and dryers that are token operated for the Loads of Love project.”
Through funding from the United Way and the Marshfield Area Community Foundation, a six-month pilot program began in Marshfield that continues to assist the community.
“This program is still, in fact, in operation today,” said Winch. “It became part of United Way’s repertoire of programs offered.
“Families are referred through various community agencies, including North Central Community Action Program, St. Vincent de Paul, Personal Development Center, and social workers at the Marshfield School District. In 2016, 37 families received help through the Loads of Love program.”