If you have regular, easy access to a laundry machine, you may take clean clothes for granted. But did you know that not having clean clothing to wear to school is actually a major factor in low attendance rates among schoolchildren?
Dr. Melody Gunn, the former principal at Gibson Elementary School in St. Louis, made this realization after surveying some of her students’ families in an effort to tackle poor attendance. Gunn then went to appliance company Whirlpool and asked them to donate washers and dryers to the school. Intrigued by the idea, Whirlpool conducted its own survey and found that one in five students struggles with access to clean laundry.
“If kids don’t have clean clothes to wear, their attendance and self esteem plummet. Who can really pay attention in class when they know that their body odor is just radiating off of them? I’ve seen it firsthand and it is devastating,” says Lynn Joseph, a teacher at Colerain High School in Cincinnati.
Whirlpool’s research led them to pilot the Care Counts program to see if clean laundry would really be enough of a motivation to get kids in school. They began with two low-income school districts, one in St. Louis and the other in Fairfield, California. Each of 17 schools received a washer, dryer, cloth laundry bags, garbage bags, detergent and fabric softener. And after 2,320 loads of laundry, the program was found to be a huge success.
Alison Guernsey, a seventh-grade teacher who was a part of the program, told TODAY Parents, “One of my students had just sort of withdrawn from school completely. After we started the program, he was more excited about coming, and he started to be actively engaged in class. He didn’t feel like an outsider anymore.”
And this student was far from the only one. In fact, more than 93% of the students who participated in the program increased not only their attendance in the classroom but also in extracurricular activities. Even better, on average the at-risk participants attended almost two more full weeks of school as compared to the previous year.
“For us as a brand, our mission is to help families thrive and we know the role that appliances play in people’s lives. A simple load of laundry can have a huge impact on families and communities,” Chelsey Lindstrom, brand manager for Whirlpool, told FOXBusiness.com.
This incredible program added five new school districts for the 2016-2017 school year. To lend your support, donate to Whirpool Care Counts, where every dollar goes to expanding the program.
Watch the full story below and hear from children what clean laundry means to them.