The Shakopee Public Schools District Office got a brand new bag.
Threads for Teens, a nonprofit organization that clothes low-income or at-risk young women, opened a boutique at the school district’s offices March 10 after receiving a donation of a room there.
The boutique, operated by a Shakopee mother-daughter duo, allows young women to shop for a free outfit that includes about five clothing items and up to four accessories, including shoes.
“A lot of the time, at first, they’re shy or reserved,” 15-year-old co-director Grace Myler said about girls who visit the boutique. “As they start picking out and trying clothing, they start opening up. For a lot of them, it’s their first time shopping for themselves.”
Threads for Teens Minnesota has clothed over 100 young women since August 2016, but it was limited to pop-up events in borrowed spaces until the school district gave them the room, co-director Katie Myler said. Now, it is the only permanent Threads for Teens boutique apart from the nonprofit’s California flagship location.
“We spent a year trying to find a space,” Katie Myler said, “and no one was interested. Perhaps they were fearful of at-risk girls.”
Threads for Teens generally serves young women who are low-income, homeless, in foster care or in shelters.
Visits to the boutique are by appointment only and young women 13-21 must be nominated by an adult to participate. As part of the nomination process, the sizes and preferences of the young women are discussed, and participants are assisted by Grace Myler or volunteer stylists as they make their selections. About 50 girls had appointments in March, Katie Myler said, up from the 25 they served at their August 2016 opening during back-to-school events.
Katie Myler said the organization gets contributions from private donors, including Joe and Maddie Mauer, and from national sponsors, including Rue 21, Keds, and Claire’s.
Although the boutique is in the school district’s offices, its services are not limited to students. It does not offer clothing for young men, but “it would be great to expand into that,” Katie Myler said.
Grace Myler learned of Threads for Teens when she was 10. While watching TV, she saw a commercial for the organization and shortly after sent Allyson Ahlstrom, the nonprofit’s founder, an e-mail telling her “how cool it was,” she said. Three years later, she got a message from Ahlstrom, who was looking to expand Threads for Teens nationally.
“I love school right now,” Grace Myler said, “but I’d rather be working for Threads for Teens.”
Gabriel Sanchez is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.