Whirlpool adds to school laundry program

BENTON HARBOR — Whirlpool Corp. is expanding its Care Counts laundry program, which offers students access to laundry machines at school.

Embarking on its fifth year, the Care Counts program by Whirlpool has grown to support students in need across 18 cities and 82 schools around the country. All in all, the program provides access to clean clothes for more than 38,000 students.

This year, Care Counts is inviting a number of schools nationwide to apply for a laundry pair to bring this program to more students.  

“We hope to make even more progress by expanding the program well beyond the footprint of our pilot program, meaning more students will have access to clean clothes in more schools across the country,” said Chelsey Whitehead, senior brand manager for Whirlpool, in a news release. “New data this year continues to show the program has contributed to decreases in chronic absenteeism, and we are just getting started.”

Whirlpool reported that its survey of teachers nationwide revealed one in five students struggle with access to clean clothes in the United States.

The program tracks attendance to determine whether performance improves if kids had clean clothes.

Participating high-risk elementary school students attended at least one more day of school per month during the program, projecting to 11 more days per year.

According to Whirlpool officials, students who miss two to four days of school in the first month are five times more likely to be consistently absent for the year.

The program began in 2015, when a teacher in Missouri approached Whirlpool and claimed a leading cause of absenteeism in her school was the lack of clean clothes for students.

Melody Gunn, a former principal of Gibson Elementary School in St. Louis, noticed her students were staying home or being teased because they did not have clean clothes.

She reached out to Whirlpool, looking for a way to address the clean clothes conundrum.

A few months later, the appliance maker installed washers and dryers in 17 schools in St. Louis and Fairfield, Calif.

Through the next school year, 90 percent of students improved their attendance, averaging 6.1 more days in school than the previous year. The program would go on to affect the most at-risk participants even more, with an average of nearly two more weeks in school than the previous year, according to results from Whirlpool.

The school averaged about 50 loads per student, and 95 percent of students had more motivation in class.