Most people finish a Disney Channel show and think about Hannah Montana’s double life or Zack and Cody’s next prank, but not Shakopee High School senior Grace Myler. After seeing a “Friends for Change” clip highlighting youth service on the channel back in 2012, Myler, then just 10 years old, walked away with an inspiration to change lives.
Eight years later, the founder of Threads for Teens Minnesota, a nonprofit boutique store providing free clothes to underprivileged girls, will travel to Washington, D.C., in May to be recognized for her volunteer work by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
The program selects two honorees from each state — a high-schooler and a middle-schooler — who receive $1,000 and a four-day trip to Washington. They will tour the city, visit with their U.S. senators, and attend a gala dinner and award ceremony featuring a celebrity speaker. Past events have featured actress Viola Davis, Olympic champion skier Lindsey Vonn and NFL star Peyton Manning.
“I’m excited to be able to meet other like-minded individuals and other kids that are doing some really amazing things in their communities,” said Myler, 18. “I always get inspired by things that other people are doing.”
Myler and her mother, Katie, provide clothes and personal care items to local at-risk girls through their Threads for Teens boutique shop, located in the Shakopee school district office.
Katie Myler said her daughter received encouragement from her community, including her school principal, to apply for the award. “It was actually awesome,” she said. “So much of her life is dedicated to serving others and volunteering.”
Harold Banks, spokesman for the awards, said the program selects honorees for their initiative, effort and personal growth.
“These kids saw needs in their communities and just wanted to make a difference,” Banks said. “Most didn’t start their projects to be recognized.”
The mother-daughter team started the shop after Grace Myler sent an e-mail to Threads for Teens founder Allyson Ahlstrom in 2012, asking to be a part of the organization.
“After that initial e-mail, I continued following her online and she reached out to me with an offer I couldn’t really resist,” Grace Myler said. Three years later, Ahlstrom asked Myler to expand the organization with a shop in her hometown of Shakopee. Threads for Teens Minnesota launched in 2016 and eventually found a permanent space in 2017.
Since then, she has made more than 1,000 appointments to provide girls — many who are homeless or from low-income households, as well as victims of human trafficking — with free clothes. To receive assistance, girls must be nominated by an adult, such as a parent, social worker or coach.
“There’s a lot of need in our world and our communities,” Katie Myler said. “We have been really blessed with people who believe in our program and donated.”
About 90% of clothes are new items donated by stores. Grace Myler said she and her mother will occasionally purchase discounted clothes with financial donations.
Although she will be attending the University of Minnesota Duluth in the fall, Myler expects to stay involved in the shop and plans to create a board of volunteers to continue “benefiting others and doing good in the world.”