Published December 16, 2014
Volume 22, Number 12

Teens Helping Teens with 1Closet
1ClosetHYATT house

By Zoe Francis

A nice pair of jeans and a stylish shirt can make all the difference in the world to a teen in foster care.
That is the premise behind 1Closet, a charity that provides gently used and new clothes to teens in foster care. The nonprofit was founded by Oakland teen Laura Graham with the help of her mother, Sue.
“She really wanted the focus to be teenagers helping other teenagers, absent their parents writing a check,” Sue Graham explained of Laura’s intentions. “She wanted it to be teen-to-teen giving. If she collected from students who open their closets, it has a lot more meaning than if their parents write a check. It becomes real.”
Graham spoke on behalf of her daughter, a busy business major at the University of Arizona. The mother-daughter duo is handing over 1Closet operations to Alamo teen Riley Glasson and her family.
The group recently set up its first permanent donation site at the Hyatt House in Hacienda.
The idea for 1Closet blossomed out of a Graham family dinner conversation in late 2010 about a friend who was adopting a teen boy.
“That turned into a whole conversation with our family about what it would be like as a teenager within the foster care system,” she said. “The youth said he’d never had his own room or his own clothing. It was always passed down two, three or four times. We couldn’t imagine that.”
The Grahams learned that “most donations are for food, the elderly, pets or small kids,” she said. “Pets got a lot more than teenagers. It was crazy. It was essentially impossible to find a pair of boys jeans. It just didn’t happen.”
Laura, who was 13 at the time, launched 1Closet in January 2011, She asked friends to donate gently used or new clothes for foster care teens. San Ramon Valley High School quickly got on board by hosting a clothing drive. More than a dozen other East Bay high schools have followed suit.
“In the first year, we collected just under 2,000 garments,” Sue Graham recalled. Now, the charity routinely hands over hundreds of garments a month through various foster care agencies or shelters. Since its start, the group has given out more than 30,000 items of clothing.
“We always, always need boys clothing,” she said. “Laura and Riley have both worked really hard to get the word out that we have a need for boys clothing and large-sized girls clothing. The schools that hold clothing drives, you just don’t see that.”
“We always encourage clubs or a Girl Scout troop or your soccer team having a clothing drive,” she added. “If every person gave just two items, you’d be surprised what a difference it makes.”
Roughly 80 percent of donated clothes are gently used. Another 10 percent are new, while the rest are clothes not appropriate for teens, like kids clothes or damaged items. Some items are simply too fancy, like the designer Michael Kors handbag someone donated.
“When we get something like that, we’ll either take it to a consignment shop or put it on eBay and turn that into four or five pairs of jeans from a resale shop. That represents a lot. You have to think smart.”
The Glasson family has ties to management at the HYATT house hotel in Hacienda, which has agreed to be the first donation site for 1Closet. Nor-Cal Moving donates boxes to store clothes, which are now kept at Glasson’s home until they are given to teens.
“One of the greatest things about 1Closet is it’s not focused on money, but what kids can do to empower other kids,” Graham said. “The benefit and the greatest thing about it is that these kids are really helping kids’ lives.”
Learn more about 1Closet and sign up to host a clothing drive at 1-closet.com. Teen clothes in nice condition may be donated at the HYATT house, 4545 Chabot Drive, in Pleasanton.


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