Until Thursday, Ally Rudis, 19, a senior at Phoenix Charter School, owned just two pairs of jeans. By 6 p.m. Thursday, Rudis had found a third pair and was searching through several piles of jeans for another.
“I like having a variety of pants,” Rudis said.
Most teens would likely say the same. But for teens like Rudis, a resident at the Casa de Belen teen homeless shelter, jeans are too expensive.
On Thursday, Rudis and the other 20 teens at the Roseburg shelter received 200 pairs of jeans, collected by teens from the Roseburg High School chapter of Interact, Rotary International’s youth program.
Freshman Rachel Harland, 14, said students in the club advertised their jeans drive in the school newsletter and over the intercom.
“I knew that Casa de Belen is for teens and we’re all teens and we wanted to contribute to teens, so we contacted Casa de Belen and asked them what they needed. They said jeans,” she said.
“I thought we only would have 50 because that’s what we were trying to raise, but there were over 200,” Harland said.
Last year, when Harland was president of Joseph Lane Middle School’s student council, she helped raise $540 for the shelter to buy 30 metal chairs for the dining room.
This year she had the chance to donate again.
The shelter houses 38 people. Slightly more than half are teens. The rest are parents, children or siblings of teens. Some of the adults were also able to find jeans in their size Thursday.
Many teens said they had no more than one or two pairs of jeans or that the ones they have are too small or stained.
Airian Baldwin, 15, and his sister Jasmine Baldwin, 16, arrived at the shelter two weeks ago with their mother and two other siblings. They will both be sophomores at Roseburg High School beginning next week, and both will have jeans, which, if not new, are new to them.
Airian Baldwin had just two pairs of jeans until Thursday. He was eager to find some jeans in his size because the pair he had on he had owned since he was in sixth grade.
Jasmine Baldwin scored five pairs of jeans in her size, 9, Thursday and said she was very grateful to have them. She said she prefers to wear jeans every day of the week.
“Jeans fit my personality,” she said.
Her mother, Ambrosia Baldwin, 33, said they moved from Kentucky three weeks ago to stay with a family member in Riddle but found themselves out on the street a week later.
Casa de Belen is the only place she and her kids could stay together, since it is the only shelter in Roseburg which takes homeless teenage boys.
“I feel very blessed to be here,” she said.
Kilee Perez, 33, a resident and assistant house manager, was also grateful for the students’ donations. She was able to find three pairs of jeans in her size, 4, as well as several jeans for her three kids aged 10 to 14.
“It works. I like hand-me-downs,” Perez said.
Casa de Belen Director Penny McCue said the shelter’s teens were excited to hear they were going to receive the jeans.
“A lot of times our kids, our families come to us with nothing. We had three families come in this week that have lost everything,” McCue said.
Jeans are an item that can be hard to come by, since most people hang on to them when donating other items, she said. They’re also an important part of feeling normal for teens.
“Getting a pair of jeans may not sound life-changing, but it is for our kids,” she said.
McCue said the Interact teens’ generosity is impressive.
“I think it’s really cool. It just shows teens helping teens. It’s them helping each other,” McCue said.
House Manager Lissa Poole agreed.
“Everybody went home and cleaned out their closets. That’s awesome,” Poole said.
Interact’s adviser, Mark Agsten, president of the Roseburg Morning Rotary Club, said he was proud of the students’ effort. He said this was the club’s first year at the high school.
“It’s a brand new club. This is one of their very first projects, and I think it’s very successful,” Agsten said. “I think all the members are excited about continuing on and doing more projects.”
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.