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Students take on chore to help children





Washing, drying and folding laundry sounds like an ordinary weekend chore, but the social work club at Fort Hays State University is completing laundry tasks for underprivileged teenagers in Wichita.

For the past 13 years, students in Social Work 381: The Helping Relationship have departed on a three-day trip to Wichita. The students experienced social work needs firsthand by visiting a children's center and soup kitchen and partaking in ride-alongs with the police department.

This is the first year a service project has been added to the list.

"Each year, we visit the Wichita Children's Home," said Roy Spray, social work club sponsor and assistant professor of social work. "The offers last year wanted to be more engaged and do service activities while we were there. This is a great way to get out in the community and help."

Several members of the club collected items from their houses and the FHSU dorms. Students aimed to gather "trendy" clothes suitable for teenagers.

"Some of the children are runaways; some have been removed from unsafe homes," Spray said. "We thought, for the teenagers, it would be cool to get more trendy, cool outfits. A big part of that is if you are taken out of your home environment, you feel really uncomfortable, especially when you don't have any of your own clothes. Having clothes that are fashionable and trendy may soften the edges of being in an environment like that."

More than 10 trash bags full of clothes were donated, and Randy Gottschalk, owner of the 27th and Hall Laundromat, donated a truck-full of abandoned clothing, as well as free use of all machines.

"I didn't know (Spray)," Gottschalk said. "He called me and asked if they could use the laundromat. Because it was for charity, I gave him all the washing and drying for free."

Twenty-two students will depart Wednesday for Wichita.

"Students take the experiences in Wichita, connect it with classroom learning and bring it back to Hays," Spray said. "The community pulls together with a small project, like (Gottschalk) donating equipment for us to do the project. It's the little bit that makes a big difference."

Junior Sammy Kochanowski grew up watching her mom work.

"My mom was a social worker, so I knew I wanted to do the same thing," she said. "I really wanted to help with the clothes drive, get them washed and ready for people who need them."

Spray said the majority of students participating in the service project take more than 15 credit hours each semester, carry a part-time job and attempt to maintain a social life.

"It's great these students take time out of their schedule since it's not always easy to find time," he said. "Oftentimes, they're forced to take away from social time and study time. Social work is all about promoting the dignity and self-worth of people, and these students are a great example of that."