The ninth grade faith formation students at St. Helena’s Church in Sherrill have found a unique way to help homeless teens in their area — blue jeans. The teens are donating their gently used blue jeans to help teens at local shelters and are working with the community and
the student body at Vernon Verona Sherrill (VVS) High School to hopefully collect up to 5,000 jeans by Feb. 15. To date, the students have collected 500 pairs.
Once collected, the jeans will be donated to the “Teens for Jeans” collection program that works with DoSomething.org, a social change non-profit organization for teens and young adults, and clothing retailer Aéropostale, which will distribute the jeans to local homeless teens in need. Over the past few years, over 800,000 pairs of jeans have been distributed to teens at shelters across the U.S. and Canada.
But why blue jeans? It seems blue jeans are the one item that homeless teens requested the most when they arrived at shelters looking for assistance.
“The idea to donate to the Teens for Jeans program came about as the students were thinking of service projects they needed to complete in order to meet their requirement for Confirmation,” explained Julie Martin, a faith formation teacher at St. Helena’s. Martin read about the organization, DoSomething.org, and brought ideas for the teens to consider for their service project.
“The jean collection program was something they could see themselves doing, especially since the jeans collected would be distributed to a local shelter in the Oneida area,” explained Martin. “Although the kids have already collected over 500 pairs of jeans, their goal is to collect over 5,000 pairs by the end of the collection drive. The hardest part of the collection to date has been just finding a place to keep all these jeans. We’ve been storing them in closets, in people’s homes, in basements — anywhere we can find room.”
The jeans donated can be any size and any color, either new or gently used. The students have been working hard alongside their peers and members of the VVS Sports Booster club to collect jeans at sporting events and have set up collection areas in schools throughout the town of Sherrill. Martin also pointed out that with each pair of jeans the students collect, they seems to get a better understanding of the serious issue of homelessness and how it can happen even to teens in their own local area.
Martin shared with students a recent article that ran in the Utica Observer Dispatch indicating there had been a 44 percent increase in the number of teens identified as homeless across New York State between 2008 and 2013.
“Unfortunately 35 of those teens were reported in our own district. The kids began to understand that a homeless teen could be anyone; it could be someone they know, one of their friends or neighbors. This realization put a new face on homelessness for them. I think it amazed them to think that one of their peers could be lacking an item so simple — something they all have multiple pairs of in their own closets; a pair of jeans,” Martin said.
The teens will be collecting jeans from now through Feb. 15, hoping to reach their goal of 5,000, which will also make them eligible to win a $5,000 scholarship for their school through DoSomething.org. Those interested in donating gently used jeans can drop them off at collection boxes located at VVS High School, VVS Middle School, McAllister Elementary School or
St. Helena’s Church, or contact Julie Martin at (315) 794-5610 or firstname.lastname@example.org.