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Penn State Students Lend a Hand at Jeans for Teens

by and on December 16, 2013 3:00 PM

The community room at the Nittany Mall was, quite simply, bursting at the seams.

Wrapping paper, ribbon and bows spilled onto the floor as volunteers worked at a breakneck pace to wrap presents as a part of the Jeans For Teens program.

Jeans For Teens is a part of the Centre County Youth Service Bureau's Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Every year, around Christmastime, Centre County youth are able to shop for clothes at no cost to them.

The items are then wrapped and delivered to the children so they have something to open on Christmas morning.

“It's a total team effort,” says Denise McCann, Division Director of Community Based Services at YSB. “It's really heartwarming to see all of the students out helping, giving back to the community. Lots of kids are benefiting by having gifts to open on Christmas morning.”

On a snowy Sunday afternoon, Penn State students turned out in droves to help wrap gifts. Children were given gift cards to shop at stores in the Nittany Mall and elsewhere. Presents were then transported back to the room and wrapped.

Taylor Spencer was one of the Penn State students who gave up her Sunday afternoon to wrap gifts.

“I think it's really important to give everyone a chance to have a happy Christmas,” Spencer, a sophomore, explains. “I decided, 'why not give back?' It's easy and simple … we just come, take (the kids) around, help them pick out things so they have something nice to open.”

More than 100 volunteers showed up for the event. Spencer was glad to be a part of it.

“To see everyone out on a Sunday, giving up their time, doing something nice, it does feel good. It makes me feel better knowing I'm a part of something like this,” Spencer says.

With a name like Jeans For Teens, the gifts consist of clothing, obviously. Jeans, T-shirts, socks and shoes filled the room. Workers wrapped as quickly as they could. Most packages were decorated with ribbons or bows. Some with both.

Another Penn State student, Catherine Kauffman, says that she couldn't think of a better way to spend a snowy Sunday afternoon.

“I'm a part of Circle K and they presented this project,” she says. “I really love to do community service. I feel like it's really important for every child to get Christmas presents on Christmas day. The look in their eyes when we help them pick out clothes is just really special.”

For Kauffman, the event is a labor of love.

“It makes me feel like I'm making a difference in someone else's life. I know that I'm fortunate … but knowing that I can help makes me feel really good.”

For YSB intern Lacey Layberger, it was her first Jeans for Teens. “I wasn't a shopper, I was a store coordinator. I got to check in with everyone, make sure they were having fun, make sure they could find what they needed. I helped people find some different departments, things like that,” she said as she wrapped. “It was fun.”

Each child in the Jeans For Teens program was given a $100 gift card.

“It was neat to see how much stuff they were able to get,” she says. “Just knowing they need these things and it will be very helpful to them this holiday season … that's a good feeling.”

According to McCann, Jeans For Teens is an important part of what takes place at YSB.

“We do this every year,” she says. “The United Way provides funding and the Big Brothers Big Sisters YSB staff are very intensely involved. It's a crazy day, but a lot of fun.”

And at the end of the day, it's all about the kids.

“They do all the shopping,” McCann says. “We all know what it's like to open something (on Christmas). It's a great feeling and now they have something to look forward to.”

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This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


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