Kids who come to school wearing dirty clothes can get laughed at, and the shaming can lead to missed school days, inattentiveness in class and lack of motivation, research shows.

Whirlpool’s Care Counts grant program aims to reduce laundry glitches and embarrassment for children from low-income families, whose clothing may not be as plentiful or as clean as their peers.

A new Whirlpool washer and dryer, along with a $10,000 grant from Care Counts, recently arrived at Carmel Middle School in Harrison School District 2.

Health tech Elsie Angostini starts washing kids’ school uniforms daily at 8:45 a.m. in a nook off the gym.

“The program is intended to provide students with clean clothes in the hope of improving attendance rates and make a positive impact on students, the school and the community,” Assistant Principal Monica Glickman said.

Carmel is one of five Colorado schools selected as this year’s grant recipients.

The others are Heroes K-8 Academy in Pueblo, Doull Elementary School in Denver, DSST Cole Middle School in Denver and Roots Elementary School in Denver.

Carmel Middle School is in Pikes Peak Park, one of Colorado Springs’ poorest neighborhoods, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Students wear uniforms of tan or black pants and white, blue or black shirts.

School leaders noticed that “there were a number of students with very few uniform pieces to begin with,” making it difficult to keep them clean, D-2 spokeswoman Christine O’Brien said.

“They realized they needed help with buying uniforms as well as a place to launder them,” she said.

The $10,000 check will enable the school to purchase two sets of uniforms for at least 20 identified students, and wash school uniforms as well as athletic uniforms, Glickman said. Laundry supplies totaling $2,000 also were included.

Students were chosen for the laundry program based on grades and attendance, and several participants do not have access to laundry facilities at home, Glickman said.

The school is working on a way to provide more washing to more students on a consistent basis, she added.

“We wash the uniforms after each use and keep our uniform closet stocked as much as we can, but we do run low, especially on certain sizes,” Glickman said.

The goal is to give students a weekly uniform set to take home so students can leave the dirty set at school, Glickman said.

The school is making the washer and dryer available for students’ families to use.

The Care Counts laundry program operates in 72 schools in 13 cities, with an average of 50 loads of laundry per student during the first year of operation.

More than 85 percent of high-risk elementary students increased school attendance during last year’s program.

Classroom participation, motivation and involvement in extracurricular activities also have improved in previous years among participating students, according to Care Counts.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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