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Jeans for Teens Puts a Bow on Another Year

by on December 08, 2012 8:01 AM

They came. They shopped. They wrapped.

And they did it all for a great cause.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, over two dozen volunteers converged on the Nittany Mall, Wal-Mart and Target to be “shopping buddies” for children in Centre County. The “Jeans For Teens” program is a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Centre County. Around Christmas every year, Centre County youth are able to shop for clothes. The clothes are then wrapped and delivered to the children so they have something to open on Christmas morning.

On this day, the small community room at the Nittany Mall doubled as Santa's Workshop. While Christmas carols played over a small CD player, volunteers munched on cookies as they wrapped hundreds of gifts. Jeans, T-shirts, socks and shoes were among the items being wrapped.

Amy Dawson of Pleasant Gap was one of nearly 100 volunteers wrapping gifts at a furious pace.

“I thought it was a very good idea,” Dawson explained. “I thought it would be fun to come and wrap for the kids. It's a great turnout and there's a lot of stuff here.”

Dawson's daughter, Samantha, shared workspace with her mom. The two worked in sync, handing tape, scissors, paper and ribbon back and forth.

“I like doing things for the community and I'd heard of Big Brothers Big Sisters before. I thought this was a really good idea. I love shopping and wrapping is fun, too. When they told me they needed wrappers, I said 'I'll do that,'” Samantha Dawson said.

The volunteers came from all over Centre County to pitch in. Some were residents, some were employees of the Youth Service Bureau and some were Penn State students.

Chelsea Reynolds is a sophomore at Penn State and a member of the Student United Way.

“This is an event we help with every year,” Reynolds said. “I wanted to help kids who are less fortunate and I just love volunteering.”

Reynolds spent the early part of the afternoon at Wal-Mart helping one of the children pick out clothing.

“It was nice to help her find clothes that she needed and wanted. They didn't have to worry about paying for it … it makes you feel really good that you're helping somebody,” Reynolds said.

Andrea Stanton is also a member of the Student United Way. According to Stanton, she participated in Jeans For Teens last year and wanted to come back again. Interacting with the child makes it all worthwhile, she said.

“They're a little shy and then you start talking to them and you know that they really need these things. It's different than buying a gift and giving it away. You actually get to see the child and see them react to it. It's more personal,” Stanton said.

Both Reynolds and Stanton said the entire experience lasted about three hours.

“It's not a lot of time,” Stanton said. “It's good for the community to see the students involved. They need to know that we're here for support.”

And it wasn't just Penn State students lending a helping hand. Brittany Hosband of Lock Haven University is an intern at the Youth Service Bureau. It was her first Jeans For Teens. She was involved in the planning process, so it was nice to see everything come together, she said.

“It's nice to see it in action and it's great to give these kids a better Christmas,” Hosband said. “It went so smoothly. You see the kids come in and they're super excited. Today, I got to take the kids off the bus and to see their reaction was just great. It's why I got into social work to begin with.”

Jeans For Teens is funded by the Centre County United Way.

Chris Morelli is the managing editor of The Centre County Gazette.
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