Allyson Ahlstrom On Founding Threads For Teens!
18-year-old Allyson Ahlstrom is the founder of Threads for Teens, a charity that furnishes under-privileged teens with free outfits for everyday use.
We recently spoke with Allyson about her inspiration to create the organization, and about what she hopes to achieve in the future!
Allyson Ahlstrom had always been involved in community service, and was almost always involved in some kind of service or volunteer work. Then one Christmas, she received a book called Generation Change by Zach Hunter.
The book detailed the stories of young people who had started amazing service projects to benefit their communities. The book inspired her to create a project of her own.
"I thought to myself after reading, 'I guess I'm not too young,'" Allyson said. "I'm going to do something. I'm going to try."
One project the book discussed involved collecting prom dresses to donate to girls who otherwise would not be able to afford them. Allyson decided to take that concept a step further by putting together everyday head-to-toe outfits for girls.
"I had the idea for a one-time clothing drive to outfit ten girls in a brand new outfit and it just grew from there," she said.
She was initially drawn to the idea because she had plans to become a fashion designer.
"I was taking sewing classes and drawing classes," she said. "I was wondering how I could combine my love of fashion with wanting to do a service project, and that's how Threads for Teens came about."
Once Allyson had come up with the idea for Threads for Teens, she made it a reality by sending hundreds of letters to clothing companies discussing her plans and asking for donations.
"We just waited to hear back from there," she said. "I actually didn't know if I was going to get a single shirt donated, let alone enough clothing to sustain a full-time organization."
But her letters worked. Threads for Teens was able to set up a permanent boutique in Santa Rosa, California, and to date, more than 1600 girls have received one to two brand new outfits including shoes and accessories thanks to the charity.
Along the way, she came to understand that her project was a lot more about clothes. It was also about giving girls hope and boosting their confidence.
Her efforts haven't gone unnoticed. In 2012, she got to hang out with Tyra Banks and was recognized for her work at TeenNIck's HALO Awards.
"I was really shocked," she said. "I had no idea what was going on for that whole experience. It was crazy and fun and I am so honored that i was chosen."
Allyson eventually wants Threads for Teens locations to exist in all 50 states.
"I want to be able to set a model so it can become self-replicating, and then maybe I can step down and be more of a director," she said. "I definitely want to stay along and make sure it gets off the ground."
Currently, Allyson is working to open a second Threads for Teens boutique in Philadelphia. She is also planning a summer Threads for Teens tour for 2014, in which a semi-truck will be converted into a traveling boutique to serve girls across the country.
Despite all of her success, Allyson believes that other teens can achieve just as much as she has.
"Anyone who's interested in doing service should really find something they're passionate about," she said. "Any passion that you may have, theres a way to incorporate it into service."
She recommends that people who are unsure about community service to just start and see what happens.
"There are people everywhere who need help, so go out and do something," she said.
Curious about Threads for Teens? Learn even more or get involved through their official website or Facebook page!