Program offering free laundry aims to wash troubles away for students in Queens

Darla Miles Image
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Program aims to wash students' troubles away with free laundry
A new program is hoping help keep students at P.S. 171 in class by offering free laundry with the help of 14th Street Laundry and Hydro Quebec. Darla Miles has the story.

ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) -- Organizers of a new program say dirty clothes can keep lower income children from attending class, and now they have a plan to help remove that obstacle for some students in Queens.

"Feeling about yourself is what's going to help our children continue to grow," P.S. 171 Principal Laura Kavourias said. "Academically, socially and emotionally."

A picture posted on Twitter shows nothing but happiness, joy and a sense of accomplishments on the faces of students at P.S. 171., but some smiles were missing from the photo.

"Many times, our children don't come to school because they don't have anything to wear," Kavourias said.

The issue is too embarrassing for some parents to openly discuss, but teachers and principals see it and they're not the only ones.

"We've seen it. We've seen it over the years," said Demetrios Vasiadis of 14th Street Laundry.

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Even the COO of a clean energy company took notice of a bulletin board on high absenteeism noticed during a school visit.

"So, we asked how we could help? What could we do to come fix things," said Serg Aberergel, COO of Hydro-Quebec.

The fix is that parents will be given coupons twice a month, to redeem for 30 pounds of wash, dry and fold. It's a collaboration between the school, nearby 14th Street Laundry and Hydro Quebec, which is sponsoring the free service.

"The parents are super excited about this opportunity not to have to make the difficult choice between the fact, do I put food on the table or do I clean my kid's clothes," said Dr. Anuj Rupchandani, Executive Director of Zone 126.

"There's two main problems," Vasiadis said. "There's a cost problem, right. Buying soap, buying detergent, buying fabric softener. The other problem is time. I have two kids they're in public schools."

It's a problem P.S. 132 in Washington Heights tackled in 2020, by installing a washer and dryer in the school. Beginning Thursday in Astoria, the problem will be solved too.

"With clean clothing, they're not embarrassed to go to school and do their classes," Aberergel said.

"Just having a place to come with clean clothes, go so school, be a part of the education system, have fun at recess, things like that are going to make the children feel good," Kavourias said.


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