For some people, doing laundry is simply a hassle. For others, it is a struggle and a luxury.
Some schools in St. Joseph have recognized this as a need in the community.
“We live in a district of St. Joseph where we draw from a population that struggles with money — not all of it — but we do have a fair amount of kiddos that struggle and their parents struggle every day to come up with the resources,” said Landi Quinlin, principal at Truman Middle School.
Kelly Bristol, a school social worker at Bode and Truman middle schools, explained that some families cannot afford a washer and dryer while others have difficulties paying electric or water bills. That’s why students had been able to discreetly wash their clothes at school. Then the unit broke.
“We had a situation where two things stopped working at the same time in two of my buildings,” Bristol said. “So, we put that feeler out on social media and I had sent out some messages to people that I knew that had donated in the past.”
Bristol was put in touch with Missouri Care, a health care provider that also helps families, pregnant women and children to connect with social services. Senior Manager for Missouri Care Marketing and Community Relations Edward Williams said Missouri Care just recently started expanding into the St. Joseph area, and their goal to provide more than just health care fit the cause perfectly.
They donated a washer and dryer set to Bode and Truman each and also sponsor laundry detergent and laundry bags for the students’ use.
“When you look at clean clothes and for those kids to feel confident to come to school and not really have that as a barrier is so important for their beginning of the day,” Williams said.
Feeling confident is something many teenagers struggle with and middle school can be a sensitive time, according to Quinlin.
“Especially in middle school, as bodies change and things change within them, they become more self-conscious of that and others notice it a little bit more the older they get,” she said. “To be able to provide them with something that will give them a little bit more self-confidence so they can walk through the school and be just like everyone else, that’s super important in middle school.”
Bristol estimates around 10 to 15 students used the washer unit a year at Truman before it broke. While the units allow students to wash their everyday clothes on a regular basis, they also are used in classes that teach home basics like cooking and washing or when students get their clothes wet or dirty. Both Bristol and Quinlin plan to promote the offer more and hope that it will improve attendance.
“I think that this service we provide is going to increase attendance,” Quinlin said. “That is a reason that some kids do stay home every week because they only have so many outfits every week that they can wear because they don’t know when it’s going to be clean again.”