For more than a century, Whirlpool has been designing home appliances that are focused on how families care for their loved ones, be it through healthy new ways of cooking or energy-efficient washing. And while some of you probably already know that Whirlpool Corporation is one of Habitat for Humanity’s largest corporate partners, you might not yet know about their newest charitable effort, Care Counts.
For the 2015-2016 school year, Whirlpool partnered with teachers, administrators and Dr. Richard Rende, Ph.D., an internationally recognized developmental psychologist, to research the connections between clean clothes and school attendance. “When we learned that a child’s education could be at risk because they do not have access to clean clothes, we were determined to help,” says Chelsey Lindstrom, brand manager for Whirlpool. “It’s incredible to see how the simple act of laundry can have such a profound impact on students’ lives.”
Teachers across the U.S. estimated that nearly one in five students who don’t have access to clean clothes (sometimes there’s just no money, sometimes utilities have been shut off) were likely to struggle with absenteeism, a critical issue impacting as many as ten million children every year. As a part of the Care Counts program, seventeen participating schools in Missouri and California received washers and dryers and identified students with a need for clean clothes. The students were anonymously tracked on the number of loads of laundry they brought to school, their attendance, and their grades throughout the school year. To measure additional behavioral changes, each student’s primary teacher also completed a qualitative survey on the student’s overall improvement.
“Every single day of school matters. When students miss school, they are missing an opportunity to learn,” said Martha Lacy, principal, David Weir K-8 Academy in Fairfield, California. “Absenteeism strongly impacts a student’s academic performance. In fact, students with excessive absence rates are more likely to fall behind, graduate late and even drop out.”
The results of the Care Counts laundry program are beyond impressive. Ninety percent of the tracked students improved attendance, averaging 6.1 more days in school than the previous year. And the program impacted the most at-risk participants even more, with an average of nearly two more weeks in school than the previous year. But it wasn’t just attendance that improved. Teachers found that the children were more motivated in class, they participated in extracurricular activities, they interacted with peers more easily, and their grades improved. In short, they enjoyed school!
In August, Whirlpool announced that the pilot program was expanding. “We are excited to bring this resource to even more schools across the country,” adds Lindstrom.
We’re excited too—and so very, very proud of the good work our vendors do.