Having a bedroom with a closet full of clothes is something most teens could easily take for granted. But in northern California, a population of youths have no homes or bedrooms, let alone closets, yet they attend school just like their peers. Laura Graham of Oakland, California made it her mission to provide homeless teens with gently used clothes, helping disadvantaged youth raise their esteem and fit in at the schools they attend.
Laura founded 1Closet in 2011 with support from her mother, Sue, organizing clothing drives through a partnership she created with local public and private high schools, collecting gently used teen clothing for youth living in the Alameda County and Contra Costa County Region. The collected apparel is then made available through boys and girls clubs, youth shelters, foster children organizations and county programs focused on helping teens. Laura and her team at 1Closet have collected more than 30,000 garments to outfit more than 8,000 teens.
“Once I started collecting clothes and donating them I saw how my small efforts significantly impacted others,” Laura explains. “It just felt right to continue giving and doing all I could to make the community a better place.”
Laura set the foundation for her cause. And when it was time to head to college, she developed a plan to sustain the efforts of 1Closet, seeking out a capable successor to carry the torch.
When she learned that 1Closet was searching for a new director, Riley Glasson jumped at the opportunity to continue the work of the Grahams. Since taking over as director in September 2014, Riley has created a permanent donation site, forged an ongoing partnership with a teen consignment store in addition to holding a clothing drive at a local college – as a result, individual donations have increased, creating room to support additional teen focused organizations.
According to Riley, “The most rewarding part of my experience doing volunteer work has been knowing that teens who struggled with confidence because of their lack of clothing can now feel more self-assured than they did before.”
Volunteer work has been an integral part of the lives of both of these teenage changemakers. Laura and Riley both urge others to find meaningful volunteer opportunities. “I would encourage everyone to find something they’re interested in or are curious about and get involved by doing anything, big or small to help with a cause,” Riley says.
Laura agrees, adding, “Volunteering is a very easy thing. To get involved you don’t have to start an organization or commit to anything. Just find something you feel passionate about or would be able to help with and look for people with the same interests.”
Who are the people in your community making a difference through exceptional volunteer work? Nominate someone today for the Daily Point of Light Award at http://www.pointsoflight.org/programs/recognition/dpol/nomination