It’s something you most likely take for granted: the ever-dreaded laundry. You probably complain when you have to do it, the pile of clothes that you have to drag to the washing machine. Maybe there is a shirt you desperately want to wear so you wait impatiently as it tumbles in the dryer. All this seems like a mundane chore. But think for a minute if you didn’t have a washing machine or dryer to clean your clothes? What if you didn’t have enough money to take your clothes to a laundromat? What if you didn’t know when your clothes would be clean again?
It’s a big enough problem for many people in the Lowcountry that staff at Goose Creek High School decided to do something about it. They wanted to help students at their school that they knew needed assistance laundering their clothes because they didn’t have access to a washer and dryer. And most importantly, to do all of this without kids having to suffer the embarrassment of their peers knowing that they needed help.
Amanda Cooper, a social studies teacher at Goose Creek High School, was inspired to start the Clean Laundry Initiative at the school by a national program from Whirlpool called Care Counts. The company donates washing machines and dryers to various schools across the country in an effort to help low-income students attend school in clean clothes. Whirlpool found that more than 85 percent of high-risk elementary school students increased their attendance during the 2017-18 school year by having access to clean clothes. High-risk elementary school students are defined as elementary students with more than 15 days absent across the 2017-18 school year (an average of 1.5 days or more absent per month).
Cooper herself witnessed students wearing the same dirty clothes every day and noticed the correlation: Many of them would miss more school than their peers. She did some research on the Whirlpool program and looked at the success that other schools in the country had when they implemented this initiative in their schools.
“Once we decided to launch the program, we got so much support from the community,” she says.
Goose Creek High School currently has two sets of washers and one dryer. She says that due to space, that is all they can set up right now, but she hopes to add more machines in the future.
She says that parents really stepped up to contribute to the program and that with their help and the help of area churches and media outlets, they were able to collect enough laundry detergent to set them up for quite a while.
“One grandparent of a student even bought us a brand new washing machine and dryer,” she reports.
The program at GCHS has now been in existence for a year and Cooper estimates that about 10 students utilize it regularly, which equates to about two students per day dropping off their laundry anonymously.
“We have no idea whose clothes we are washing,” Cooper says. “The students are assigned a number. They drop off their clothes in the morning and pick them up later that afternoon.”
Cooper takes care of all the washing and drying, along with the students in her service learning class. She says that this program has taught them how to give back to their community. “I have students in the class that have been specially trained to participate in the program and have been so great,” she says. “I have to give so much credit to my service learning students for the help they have given in making this program a success. They are instrumental. I could not do it without them.”
She says that she feels clean clothes really help the students who are using the program come to school more and participate more often. “They don’t feel self-conscious,” she explains. “You wouldn’t believe how much just having clean and fresh clothes can do for you.”
She went onto say that this program has inspired her and her students to do more. They want to start a “Clothing Closet” of used clothes to give away, with business attire that the students can wear to job interviews. Cooper has also been exploring starting a hygiene product giveaway and even a food pantry.
“I just want students to come to school and realize that they can lead a better life here,” she says.
Cooper’s goal is to get their sister schools involved in the program. “I know a couple of elementary schools interested in starting a clean laundry initiative program, and I am excited to help them get their programs off the ground,” she says with enthusiasm.
Cooper would like the public to know that they can help by donating dryer sheets and gloves, as that is their real need right now. She says that the supplies can be dropped off at the office at Goose Creek High School. Just tell the staff you are dropping off supplies to donate to the Clean Laundry Initiative.
For more information, contact Goose Creek High School at 843-553-5300 or 843-820-4064.