Putting Absenteeism on Spin Cycle: How United Way NCA is Cleaning Up Dropout Rates With Free Laundry

Amongst the lulling whoosh of a turbulent washing machine, stood four Enterprise volunteers, a bushel of paint brushes in hand. This hidden nook, wrapped within the labyrinth of vibrant yellow and blue hallways of Francis C. Hammond Middle School houses an important ingredient in cutting absenteeism down: access to clean clothes. With the laundry units now installed from the Loads of Love grant, it was time to give the musty green walls, the last relic of a hollowed out locker room, a much needed makeover.  

Laundry units, like the one installed in Hammond have become a trend in combatting rampant absenteeism in low-income communities. The ability to wear clean clothes to school not only influences how students see each other but also how they feel about themselves. Dirty clothes have not only been linked to self-esteem issues, but also poor grades and high dropout rates. And when a student can’t access laundry it often indicates that the family can’t as well. However, with the addition of a laundry unit in Hammond, families in the entire community can now drop their clothes off in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day, washed, dried and folded.  

Enterprise’s entourage of volunteers played a vital role in improving the facility’s homely appearance. Armed with several cans of white primer and a hearty mix of paint rollers, thick brushes, and paint tape, the once pale green walls faded under a blanket of white. When we talk about creating spaces for low-income communities to access critical resources, the appearance of those facilities is just as important as the service itself.  

“The energy in here is so much different now!” exclaims Mackenzie, an enterprise volunteer. “This is such an important service to provide to these families.” 

Francis C. Hammond’s laundry unit will continue to receive refurbishment and cosmetic improvements until its official opening in the fall. Once operational, families from across the community will be able to drop their clothes off in the morning and pick them up washed, dried and folded at the end of the day. Though Hammond is receiving its first laundry unit, United Way NCA is invested in bringing similarly impactful resources to its twelve other community schools. 

To learn more about how United Way NCA’s involvement in community schools, please visit unitedwaynca.org/communityschools.