School has always been one of my favorite things. I loved learning (still do!) and was especially thrilled by reading, the way that words could come to life and transport me to new and exciting places. It’s why I studied English at university.
I knew that I wanted to use my Regifting project to help elementary students find this same love of school but I had no idea how. In a serendipitous stumble, I came across Whirlpool and Teach for America’s recent initiative, Care Counts™. The program was born after Whirlpool’s community outreach team heard again and again how students without regular access to laundry would skip school rather than attend in dirty clothes.
In the first year of the program, according to Fast Company, “attendance jumped an average of two days for students who were previously missing more than 10 days per year; teachers reported a 95% increase in classroom and extracurricular activities among the same students. The success of the program, which washes, on average, around 50 loads of laundry per participating student per year, led Whirlpool to expand to another 20 schools and four more cities.”
I was able to connect with Erin Laussen, Dean of Students at Humboldt Park’s Piccolo School of Excellence, one of Chicago’s participating schools. She told me about the growing impact of the program and the school’s eagerness to have more students and parents utilize the service.
The $500 was able to supply a year’s worth of detergent and dryer sheets, ensuring that parents and volunteers will have everything they need for the upcoming year. It also stretched far enough to provide 17 laundry kits designed to reach parents and students in need that may not know about the program. Each kit contains a roll of quarters, small bottle of detergent, dryer sheets and an info packet with details about the program, all in small mesh laundry bags that can discreetly fit into a backpack or purse.
Erin also helped organize my visit to the school where I sat in a first-grade math class and a multi-grade special education class. I helped students with math tables, played counting games and was reminded of kids’ wonderfully boundless imaginations. It was a wonderful day and made me grateful for the connections that Regifting fosters between 88ers and the greater community.