BELOIT, Wis. - The School District of Beloit’s Loads to Success program is planning to expand its services after receiving a special grant from the green and gold.
The Green Bay Packers Foundation awarded the laundry program $4,500 for work the students do to help homeless students.
This is only the second year of the laundry program, but special education teacher Lori Lange said it’s grown tremendously from the idea she first heard on the radio.
“We’ve had multiple Beloit School District families dropping off their laundry at the local schools,” she said. “We did almost 500 loads of laundry last year.”
New this year, Lange said, is a partnership the students have forged with a Rockford-based nonprofit called Just Breathe 815, which gives clothes to homeless teens. The clothes are first shipped to Beloit for the special education students to wash.
“I like to give back to people,” said sophomore Miracle Pritchard, who participates in the program.
The program hopes to use the grant money to buy more washers and dryers to replace the aging machines the school currently has. Lange said she also hopes to create one designated laundry room for the students to work in because right now, they do laundry within three different rooms.
“It’s very exciting to know that an organization such as that is recognizing what we do down here and trying their best to help us out,” she said.
Besides being a benefit to the community, Lange said the program also helps her special education students get prepared for life after high school. The students are the ones who put tags on the clothes to keep track of them and let the people know when their clothes are clean and ready to be picked up.
“My students have also learned more job skills and the soft skills of how to work a computer, utilize databases, emails, text messages, all those things with purpose,” she said. “I’m just loving it.”
Lange said several students who participated in the program last year used the skills they learned to find jobs at hotels and the Stateline Family YMCA.
“We’re very excited that they now have full-time employment with a skill that we were able to teach them here at the high school,” she said.
As the program continues to grow, Lange said she hopes more students feel comfortable coming to them for help.
“This year we are trying to get rid of the stigma of being associated with poverty,” she said. “We are going to be trying to do some contests and have different sports teams and clubs (to) see how many kids will bring in their laundry. So this way, if we’re doing all student laundry, and it becomes one of the norms, ‘Hey, I’m going to bring my backpack and my laundry to school,’ it’s going to make a really big difference for all our kids to feel comfortable in doing that without feeling self-conscious in any way, shape or form.”
Lange said there is an online campaign to help the program raise money for new washers, dryers and laundry supplies. She said she’s also in need of fragrance-free soaps.