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Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School Event

In the beginning of August, Threads for Teens began the month long journey of collecting and donating backpacks and school supplies to our previous shoppers at our storefront location in Santa Rosa, California.
On August 7th, Disney star, Coco Jones, joined at us at the Threads for Teens boutique for a day event of meet and greets to collect school supplies for our girls! About 35 families came out to the boutique to meet Coco with arms full of supplies and backpacks. All the donors who supported us this day had an amazing experience, meeting Coco Jones and receiving a free Chipotle lunch! All genders and ages came to the event, which was a change for Threads for Teens, since our work is usually focused specifically in teen girls. By the end of the day we had collected a few backpacks and TONS of supplies. Luckily, Marmot donated 50 brand new backpacks, along with supplies, to Threads for Teens in addition the items collected on August 7th. After both collections, I filled the store with all of the backpacks, and our front desk with various school supplies from paper, to highlighters, to water bottles.
After receiving all of the supply donations, I contacted all of the programs around and in Sonoma County in order to set up the day where our previous shoppers got to pick out their backpack and supplies. That day around 40 girls came into the boutique and chose one backpacks filled with supplies, and a few extra supplies additionally. Each one of the girls were so appreciative and excited to start the school year on the right foot with their new supplies. My favorite part of this day was connecting the girls again. The bonds made while shopping with them are never lost, so seeing each one of them again was heartwarming and fun. 
xoxo Ashton Smith
Ashton Smith organizing all the backpacks donated from Marmot.

Each backpack (above) represents the options the shoppers could choose from. Each backpack was filled with supplies, a lunchbox, and additional supplies from the table (above) were chosen personally by the girls. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

8/2: Boston STRONG

Claire's Volunteers
In 2013 we wrapped our tour in Boston, and this year we did the same as well. The Revere Hotel was kind enough to host our event for a second year in row! Thank you to Brian and everyone else who made this possible. Getting to Boston was slightly a challenge because Parkways in Long Island do not allow trucks with trailer to drive on them. Our GPS kept wanting us to take parkways so we spent at least an hour trying to figure out how to get off the island. Finally we did, however this put us back on time a bit. Thankfully, we made it in around 7pm and I was able to meet my two best friends from college for dinner. Our rooms at the Revere were extremely nice. We were in suites that had two bathrooms each! The view was also incredible. I cannot express my gratitude enough to the Revere.

We woke up the next morning and were excited to find that we could park our trailer in this indoor area. My mom was especially happy because she hates the heat more than anything. Because we had good conditions again, I was able to pull more items to replenish the clothes since 89 girls came to our previous stop in Long Island. The girls lined up and were all so anxious to get in. Three homeless girls came at the very end and were extremely grateful because their clothes were to dirty and threadbare. They all wore their new items as they left.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of my fabulous Claire’s volunteers from the day. Two of the girls from last year came out. We didn’t have nearly as many girls at our stop last year, so they were excited for the change of pace and having 50 girls to help. The stop was nonstop! When it was over, I felt extremely weird, as did my mom. It felt like only yesterday we were in LA and kicking it all off. However, both of us were proud of what everyone across the United States had helped us to accomplish. After we packed up, my mom and I headed down to Newbury Street to do some shopping. However, the only shopping we accomplished was buying cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes. I got vanilla and my mom got coconut! YUM!

Please stay tuned for a final wrap-up post that will include commentary from myself (Allyson), my mom (Amy), and Grandpa Gus.

Allyson Ahlstrom

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

8/1: Long Island

After Philadelphia, we had a nice day off, which was nice because we hadn’t had one off for a week. We ended up sleeping in Philadelphia one more night, then drove into Long Island the next day. We dropped the trailer off in Long Island, then stayed the night in Manhattan at the London Hotel. The London Hotel is so fabulous because it is right in Midtown and so luxurious. Management greeted us with some really nice chocolates!

The next day, we woke up bright and early to take the train out of the city and into Long Island. We parked at a community center, which was a convenient location for the girls. Once again, our fabulous volunteers from Claire’s came to help out. We realized that we had a ton of extra accessories left over, and with just one stop to go we wanted to try and give them out! So we set up an extra table of accessories. We were also running low on some sizes of clothes. In Philly, as mentioned in the previous blog post, it was raining so I was unable to go through boxes. Thankfully, the weather was decent so I was able to replenish the stock, while the volunteers took over styling the girls.

This stop was by far our most busy stop! We beat our record from Arizona, giving 89 girls a brand-new outfit! Which is absolutely insane and awesome. More importantly, all of the girls were really appreciative and happy with the items they took. Several commented that it really did feel like an actual shopping experience. That’s exactly what we go for, because it’s not just about clothes, but it’s also about the opportunity to be treated with dignity.



Sunday, August 3, 2014

7/29: Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA, my home! I go to University of Pennsylvania, so I was definitely looking forward to coming to Philly. I also plan on opening a boutique there in the fall, so putting out a sneak peak was beneficial. We arrived late Friday night and actually stayed at my apartment overnight. I never moved out from my first summer session, which was a bit relaxing and comforting to sleep in my own bed. We woke up the next morning and headed over to our location for the event, at 34th and Chestnut. That is right on my campus, so I invited a ton of Philly/Penn friends to come and see what I always tell them about, in person.

As we walked the six blocks from my apartment to the parking lot, rain began to drizzle. This turned into a full on downpour as we set up the boutique. Thankfully, as always several volunteers from Claire’s were on board to help us figure out the situation. We quickly transported all the boxes into the truck and also filled up one fitting room. My friend Amanda from my sorority, ZTA, also came out to volunteer for the day. After we finished setting up, thankfully, the rain began to subside. Girls began trickling in. We were concerned that girls would not come because of the rain, however we had a pretty good turnout.

Several of my friends (David, Natalie, and Tiff), came out to check it out. I was really excited to show them around because I constantly talk about it at school. My friend David even commented that it was so awesome to see it in person and see it as being something real and tangible! The girls that day really had a great time. An organization called the Evoluer House sent many girls, and I even got an email later that day from one girl who wants to help me open a boutique in Philly!

All in all, it was a great day and I can’t wait to officially bring TFT to Philadelphia.

Next Up: Long Island!


Allyson Ahlstrom

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

7/25: Columbus, OH

Columbus was an experience. Last year, the Crowne Plaza Columbus Downtown donated a one-night stay for us and hosted our event. This year, they were also kind enough to host us again! Juliann Beatty in the sales office, was so kind to help us out. She wanted to get more involved with Threads for Teens because she was so inspired from the previous year. Well, fortunately Thirty-One Gifts, an amazing bag direct sale company was having their annual weeklong conference in Columbus, right across the street from the Crowne Plaza Columbus Downtown. Knowing this, Juliann reached out to the head of charitable giving, Wendy, to let her know all about Threads for Teens. Thirty-One was really interested in Threads for Teens, especially since one of our main colors is pink ;)
 Through this, Juliann coordinated the donation of 1000 Thirty-One product from their Thirty-One Gives collection. Furthermore, the night we rolled into Columbus from Detroit, we were able to have dinner with several amazing women affiliated with the philanthropy aspect of Thirty-One. This included Wendy Bradshaw, Director of Philanthropy for Thirty-One Gives; Haley Kilpatrick, Director of Girl Talk; Ashley Haley, Senior Executive Director with Thirty-One; Lisa Niederberger, Senior Director at Thirty-One; and (UNTITLED). They were all extremely supportive of Threads for Teens, and truly interested in the mission. Haley Kilpatrick’s organization, Girl Talk works to raise self-esteem in teen girls (sound familiar). Girl Talk is one of Thirty-One’s national charity partners. Haley is such an incredible young lady, who I really look up to. She started her organization as a teenager as well, so it was incredibly insightful to talk to her for the short time I was able.
After dinner, they invited us to come to the convention and see what Thirty-One is all about in person! First of all, there were so many women everywhere!! 17,000 women attended the convention. As we were walking around, I am pretty sure Grandpa Gus felt slightly out of place! All of the women we were walking with were quite the celebrities and everyone kept stopping and asking to take pictures! Wendy was happy Grandpa Gus was with us because she had him be everyone’s ‘bodyguard’ so we could walk around the convention without it taking forever! First, they took us to a special room they had set-up for women to fill sanitary care packages. What was so special about this is that at the end, everyone writes a special note to place in the bags! We all filled a couple, and then started making our way toward the Thirty-One Gives booth.

The Thirty-One gives booth was really inspiring to see in person, because many women who do not normally volunteer were extremely interested in learning more about Girl Talk and the Ronald McDonald House (Thirty-Ones other national charity partner). We also met Haley’s mom, who was dressed up in a bright pink wig, telling everyone how she could bring Girl Talk to her communities. If you don’t already know about Thirty-One Gifts and Thirty-One Gives, I would highly recommend checking them out.

Onto Friday, where girls came out! Juliann from the Crowne Plaza Columbus Downtown made the most adorable sugar cookies with pink frosting for all of the girls, to match the Thirty-One Gives bags that were donated to us. Ashley Haley from Thirty-One also came in the morning to volunteer with us all day. She was in charge of passing out all of the Thirty-One bags and making sure the girls know about their inspiring mission. All of the girls were extremely grateful for the experience to come, and I got to talk with several of them about how this small gesture of new clothing would impact their lives for the better. One girl even wrote in the guest book, “It made me feel like I was special.” It is so sad that the girls who come to Threads for Teens don’t realize that they are special and are important and can accomplish anything. I keep stressing this because the girls who come are worth it, regardless of what they may be told or how they feel. Toward the end, Wendy and Haley also stopped by to see the mobile boutique in action. I am so grateful to be connected to such an amazing company as Thirty-One, which truly emphasizes girl empowerment.

I would like to end with something Juliann told me on the phone before we arrived in Columbus. When she was organizing all of this, she said to me that something I said to her last year really stuck in her mind. I said to her that Threads for Teens’ mission is complete if inspire one person to do something to make a difference for others or empower someone to go after his/her aspirations. Juliann told me I did exactly this when I said that to her and really took to heart how she could do something to help out. By making several phone calls, she has opened a great door of opportunity for Threads for Teens. Thank you Juliann! AND PLEASE, anyone who wants to help out with any type of organization, look at me or the example of Juliann. It only takes a small gesture to make a big difference.

Allyson Ahlstrom

Monday, July 28, 2014

7/24: Detroit from Allyson, Amy, and Grandpa Gus's POV

Allyson's POV

Some of the girls who came to shop! We are making crazy faces!!

Last year in Detroit, we had such an amazing turnout. All of the girls who came were so grateful to be at the mobile boutique and truly interested in Threads for Teens and how it was started. When scheduling the tour, I made sure to make a stop in Detroit because of the girls from the Matrix Center. The day started off slowly. Several girls referred by the Ennis Community Center came at the beginning.

Before this, once again we had our Claire’s volunteers! One of the ladies, Monica, volunteered at the Threads for Teens stop in Detroit last year, so I was excited to see her again. The other women, Maris, Timarie, and Jill were all also extremely helpful. We got the truck set-up in no time!
My wonderful Claire's volunteers :)

After our first girls from the Ennis Center stopped by, we had to wait about an hour before the Matrix Center literally brought a large yellow school bus filled with girls! As they were driving up, I could see the smiles on their faces from the excitement. They all got out, and quickly got in line. They were all so looking forward to come in that I could tell were eager to not be in line. In fact, sometimes I would grab stuff from boxes and girls would ask me to hold onto that stuff for when they got their turn.
Waiting for our first bus load!
Many of the girls had come to Threads for Teens last year, so it was nice to see some familiar faces. I enjoyed catching up, and even hearing that many were going to college or just had completed their first year at college. Since I just finished my first year as well, it was nice to have that small bond. Many of the girls expressed their hopes and dreams for the future, which amaze me. I find it so refreshing when anyone dreams big. In interviews I have stated many times that I strongly believe that if you work hard enough following your dreams, you will achieve some sort of success. When Threads for Teens was first thought of it was supposed to be a onetime clothing drive; however, it continued to grow and surpass all expectations I initially had for it. Please please please think of me at fourteen not knowing what I was doing, but making small steps toward it, when you may feel doubts about doing something. Think of many of the girls who came today, who may have not been from the best situations, but were still extremely hopeful for the future.

If anyone is from the Detroit area and looking to get involved with teen girls, please consider checking out the Ennis Community Center and the Matrix Center.


HUGS, HUGS, and more HUGS

Allyson Ahlstrom

Amy's POV

A different kind of photo being shared today, more about it in a bit. Detroit was where we stopped, and while it is out of our way as far as our driving goes, we had such great girls last year that we had to make sure to include them againfor this tour. 

46 girls came today, most in a big yellow school bus, and many that came last year. After the event last year, Allyson spoke to the girls as a group and answered all of their questions. These girls were so excited to be back this year and many said Allyson is their mentor and role model. Many girls graduated from high school this year and are so excited to be heading to college. They told us that

they know they can do and be anything because if a 14 year old girl was able to start something so big, then they can follow their dreams too. They were hugging Allyson, taking photos with her, and one of them following her around "helping". (Her name was Alice and she loved how close it was to Allyson.)

These are girls from some of the worst situations you could imagine, but they have hope and are going to break the cycle they've come from. This tour is difficult and a lot of work for us, but hearing these beautiful girls excitement truly makes it worth it. I don't even know how to put it into words.

Now back to the photo. When we arrived to "8-Mile" this morning, this guy offered to be my personal bodyguard for all of $4 cash and another $1 to buy a coffee. Instead, I showed him this pair of silver high tops in just his size. None of us know where these shoes came from, they just appeared a couple of days ago. Men's size 13. They fit perfectly and he told me he has a silver jumpsuit that they'll match. He also told me with tears in his eyes, "thank you so much, no one never gave me nothing for free."

All in all, a most fabulous day in Detroit, a city I'll never forget with girls that have deeply touched my heart two years in a row. For now, we're off to Columbus, OH to meet more amazing young ladies.

Grandpa Gus' POV
Yesterday's stop was in the "8 Mile of Detroit" . If you have watched the pawn shop series, Hardcore Pawn, that takes place in Detroit, we were in a vacant lot next to a community center right in the heart of the area.  Lots of very deserving young girls, anxious and grateful to receive five items of new, in style clothing including shoes and accessories. We even had one guy come by who offered to be a body guard for the day's activities for $4. Amy gave him a pair of size 13 silver moon boots that had appeared from nowhere and fit him perfectly. He said that it would go perfectly with his silver jump suit. He left, very happy, as he said that no-one had ever given him anything, and promised to come back in his silver outfit. We did not see him again - too bad!  Since there was ample security at the day's event, I slipped out for a a couple hours to fulfill one of my Bucket List items; The Henry Ford (museum). Note that I actually used a capital F in the word Ford, as this is one of the most fantastic museums I have ever seen, and worth a couple of days, not just the two hours that I spent trying to jamb 150 years of industrial history into my short stay. If you are ever even close to Dearborn, make it a destination........