Behind the effort to buy washers and dryers for KCMO schools this #GivingTuesday

Before Benjamin Banneker Elementary School began cleaning students’ clothes on its school campus, it wasn’t uncommon for students to skip class because of a lack of clean clothing.

But student attendance has improved since last year when the United Way of Greater Kansas City raised money through a Giving Tuesday “Loads of Love KC” campaign to purchase a washer and dryer on-site.

School officials were also able to incorporate the appliances into a life skills class and offer times for parents to come in to do laundry, eat lunch with their children and visit the classroom while waiting for a load to finish.

“There’s a connecting factor between attendance and clean clothes,” said Stephanie Miller, a senior manager with the United Way of Greater Kansas City. “If we can provide a resource to parents that is free and easy and helps them be engaged in their child’s school, why not?”

On this year’s #GivingTuesday, the international holiday celebrating philanthropy held after the Black Friday shopping day, the United Way of Greater Kansas City is once again raising money to purchase washers and dryers for Kansas City Public Schools.

After raising more than $5,000 through its 2016 campaign, the organization has increased its “Loads of Love KC” target goal this year to $15,000.

They hope to buy a washer and dryer for five more schools: Garfield Elementary, Central Middle, George Melcher Elementary, Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, and Success Academy at Anderson.

Principals in some Kansas City schools have said they have observed a link between attendance and their students’ ability to clean their clothes.

Some students have told Central Middle School Principal Bryan Shaw that they didn’t come to school because they didn’t have a clean uniform.

Garfield Elementary Principal Doug White has noticed kids wearing the same clothes as the day before.

“We know there are issues with laundry or even the ability to have water or hot water at home,” White said in a Loads of Love video.

When United Way of Greater Kansas City employees approached the Kansas City Public Schools last year about supporting the district with a Giving Tuesday fundraising campaign, administrators were adamant about finding a way to boost attendance.

A similar program that provided school districts with washers and dryers caught United Way’s attention, Miller said, but the program had a long waiting list.

“We thought we can do that,” Miller said. “Let’s try it ourselves and see what we can do.”

United Way representatives hope to reach their 2017 goal by midnight Tuesday. To donate, individuals can text ‘LoveKC’ to 41-444 or visit https://app.mobilecause.com/f/1lsj/n/.

Faultless Starch and Faultless Linen are also contributing 50 cents for every dollar raised. Miller said United Way has also created ways for donors to learn more about its programs.

Those who donate $50 or more will be invited to attend a school tour with a KCMO principal and assistant superintendent Anthony Lewis. Those who donate $100 or more will be invited to a bus tour of United Way programs located in the Northeast neighborhood.

Those who donate $1,000 or more will have their names displayed on one of the washer and dryers purchased for the district.

Katy Bergen: 816-234-4120, @KatyBergen