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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Boston, MA ---> The end of the tour!

I truly never thought that this day would come, the last day. This is because I started planning the tour an entire year in advance and from July 2012 I was doing something almost every single day in preparation. Once again, I was truly stunned by the amount of people who came together to make this tour possible. Never in my wildest daydreams did the tour go as successfully as it did. Now, for a little information on our last stop, where we learned to be BOSTON STRONG!
Boston, MA
Allyson & Claire's Employees
I was rather excited for our Boston stop for a couple of reasons. First of all, the two stops the day before had gone awesome and I was definitely coming off of an energy high. Secondly, Boston is one of my most favorite cities. It is so full of history, and has so much beautiful architecture. Lastly, this would be our last stop of the tour and I wanted to go out with a bang! There to great us, not as early as our past two days, were four awesome Claire's volunteers, ready to go. They even brought us Boston Creme cupcakes from Crumbs Bakery and Boston Baked Beans! Yummy! The girls who came to the program were all so sweet and excited to receive their new clothing.

The girl who did the Catwalk strut around the boutique!
We set everything up, and waited for the girls to come. There was one girl specifically who had an amazing time, and even did several catwalk struts up and down the mobile boutique to show off her new clothes. When she left, she was beaming with gratitude and excitement from her shopping experience. After, it was a bit surreal to pack up the boutique for the last time. Almost immediately, I was feeling withdrawals. We definitely have enough clothes, so I am hoping to do a stop in Santa Rosa with the mobile boutique, and then possibly even San Francisco. Stay tuned!

Allyson Ahlstrom

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Portland, ME + Manchester, NH

Portland, ME
A girl shopping in Portland, ME
On Thursday, August 1st, once again we woke up bright and early to hold our second day of doing double appointments. Our first set of appointments occurred in Portland, ME at the Maine Mall! We went over to the truck around 7:45 to start setting up, and were pleasantly surprised by the temperature. It was breezy and cool, a stark contrast to what we had been getting used to over the past two months. Once again, we were greeted by five awesome Claire's employees. They immediately began to take over hanging and arranging accessories. I always love seeing how each group adds their own personal touch to setting up the jewelry! They also brought two super cute gift baskets, each themed with a state: Maine and New Hampshire. Over twenty girls came to shop at the mobile boutique, including one girl who was driven from over 155 miles away! This stop was in fact our easternmost stop of the trip, which was definitely cool. On this day, we held appointments from 8am-10am, so before we knew it, it was time to pack up and make the 2 hour drive to Manchester, NH.

Claire's Volunteers in Portland, ME with Allyson
Cute gifts from Claire's employees, representative of Maine & New Hampshire
Manchester, NH
Happy girls with their new clothes!
Allyson + Claire's Volunteers
In Manchester, I was super excited because my friend, Lauren Sundstrom, who I met this past May at the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards came out to volunteer with her friend, Becca, and mom, Lisa. All three of them were super helpful. Lisa was our resident photographer for the day, which was awesome since we generally don't have that much time to take pictures, and also manned the fitting rooms to make sure girls were getting clipped in and out. Lauren and Becca acted as personal stylists to the girls, along with all of the Claire's employees. Because of this, I (Allyson) was able to climb up into our inventory and bring down a bunch of new stuff for the girls to choose from. At our stop in Manchester, ten lucky ladies came out to shop and had an absolute blast! Everyone was so helpful in getting the boutique set up and taken down. A special shoutout to all of the ladies who came to volunteer from Claire's! The girls especially were so grateful for the experience. In the guestbook for our Manchester stop, here are some direct quotes, "Thank you so much for all you have done. This is great," and "Thank you so much, what you're doing is incredible!"

Becca, Allyson, Lauren in Manchester, NH
Now back to Lauren, because I have to tell all of you readers about the amazing service work that she does! She started an organization called Clothes for Hope, which raises money through the sale of clothing, to support schoolchildren in Ghana. Here is an excellent explanation of her organization, courtesy of Prudential:
"Lauren, a senior at Newburyport High School, conducted a clothing drive and sale that raised $30,000 to provide uniforms, desks, books, computers and other badly-needed resources for two schools in Ghana, West Africa. Lauren spent two weeks volunteering at the two schools in 2011, and “returned to America with an awareness of poverty that few of my peers had,” she said. “I learned that children in Ghana could only go to school if they were able to purchase a uniform, costing merely $9, which proves to be an unrealistic expense for most village families.” Even those who can afford uniforms sit in “classrooms that often lack desks, books or even educators,” said Lauren.
Then one day, as she was organizing her closet and culling clothes she’d outgrown, Lauren suddenly hit upon an idea: she could collect other people’s surplus clothing in her community and resell it to raise money for students in Ghana. She began sharing her idea with school groups, Girl Scout troops, local businesses and organizations, and over the course of five months, more than 200 volunteers, business owners and community leaders helped Lauren collect more than 7,000 pieces of new and gently used clothing, shoes and accessories. She sold most of them at her “Shop for a Cause” sale that rang up over $23,000 in eight hours. The unsold clothing was donated to local families in need, and additional donations and events after the sale brought Lauren’s total to $30,000. Four months later, she returned to Ghana to deliver her proceeds, which provided more than 180 school uniforms; desks for over 100 students; four new computers; hundreds of books, toys and supplies; and the funds to build a middle school, library and teacher’s conference room."
Now, in just four days, Lauren is going back to Ghana with her mom for nine days to distribute all of the donations to young school children in Ghana! She is absolutely incredible and I was so happy for her to come out to the boutique. In fact, Lauren generously donated several pairs of brand-new jeans, left over from our last clothing sale to Threads for Teens. And even after we packed up in Manchester, Lauren and her family invited us to hang out with them in Newburyport (their hometown), for a couple of hours. We had such a great time, and are now all in love with Newburyport, MA. Everyone make sure to check them out on Facebook, so they will be documenting their entire trip to Africa! We would like to extend a huge thank you to the entire Sundstrom family for being so extremely hospitable to us. THANK YOU!

Up Next: Boston, MA!

Allyson Ahlstrom

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bridgeport, CT + Woonsocket, RI

Last Wednesday, July 31st, we had quite the busy day planned for us! Two stops in one day. This would be a first for our team, so we woke up early Wednesday morning, unsure of what to expect. Read more to hear about our appointment packed day of shopping in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Bridgeport, CT
Making funny faces with the Claire's employees and Auntie Kitty
We had an early start time for shopping in Connecticut, 8am! Normally we don't start until 10am, so this was quite the change. We were unsure of how many girls might come just because it was such an early start time, however we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of girls who were there right at start time. Also there to greet us were six lovely employees from Claire's who were happy and eager to help set-up and outfit the girls. The also brought us the most adorable basket with items that they thought would be useful for touring, including hand sanitizer, Advil, snacks, and a magazine. We were super grateful for everything, and used almost all of it! For two hours, tons of girls tried on clothes to take their perfect three items and one accessory. As Auntie Kitty noted, it is so interesting to see the individual style that is reflected in each girls choices of clothing and accessory. Personalities are truly able to shine through with the self-expression that the clothes afford the girls. We were a bit sad to leave Bridgeport, as we had such an awesome time, but were excited to move onto our next stop in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

So many girls walked over at once!
Originally, we had thought that we would go to Providence to hold our event in Rhode Island. However, we were put in touch with a fantastic agency in Woonsocket that said they had a lot of girls, but couldn't make the trek to Providence. Hearing this, we made the decision to go to them and what a great decision it was! So many girls were able to come out and shop. We always love when their is an extremely high energy because it really makes for a good shopping experience. It was also nice because before all of the girls came on the truck, I was able to give them a brief history of Threads for Teens, and hopefully inspire them to start their own projects. These shopping experiences went in a what seemed to be a fast time frame, but really because it was so much fun we didn't realize three hours had passed! When it was over we packed up and headed to Maine! One of the furthest points away we would be going...

Keep checking back for more updates!
Allyson Ahlstrom