What started as one girl’s desire to help fulfill Rachel’s Challenge of making a difference definitely caused a ripple — some might even say a wave — locally. The Jeans For Teens drive is considered an unqualified success — even if the final tally didn’t climb as high as Emma Boyett’s ambitious goal of 2,500 pair.
“I am so excited to announce that with the help of all SSISD fabulous schools, awesome businesses and our wonderful community, 1,677 jeans were collected for Jeans for Teens,” said eighth-grader Emma Boyett, who lead the local drive.
The Jeans for Teens drive started at Sulphur Springs Middle School, where the student council embraced Boyett’s desire to help teens in homeless shelters feel a little bit more “normal” by providing jeans for them to wear.
Boyett had been moved in the fall when Rachel’s Challenge, a program created by the family of Rachel Joy Scott, who was killed in the Columbine school shootings, to honor the teen’s memory of kindness and service to others, was introduced at SSMS. Boyett was compelled to embrace Scott’s theory “that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."
She knew she wanted to meet that challenge, to start a chain reaction of her own. But, she didn’t know how she would pay it forward until she learned about Teens for Jeans, a national drive hosted by Aéropostale and DoSomething.org to collect jeans — a wardrobe staple of teens everywhere — to donate to more than 1,000 homeless shelters across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. This was a way she could help those homeless kids — estimated to be one in three people in shelters — in a situation that’s anything but normal feel like they fit in just a little more.
SSMS Student Council agreed to help sponsor the drive at the middle school. Sulphur Springs Public Library and Guaranty Bond Bank also agreed to place boxes at their facilities to allow community members to donate jeans if they wanted. She also contacted the News-Telegram and media outlets to help get the word out to the community.
Initially, the drive was to be for just two weeks, Jan. 28-Feb. 8. Emma set a goal of 200 pairs of jeans. The drive had netted 34 pairs of jeans in two days and by Thursday, Jan. 31, the drive had already netted 150 pairs of jeans from the “big hearted community.” So, seeing an opportunity, the goal was raised to 300. Sulphur Springs Elementary School, upon hearing of the drive, set up a drop box and collected a whopping 117 pairs of jeans in two days.
When it was time to gather up all of the jeans and take them to the Aéropostale in Firewheel Mall in Garland, it took two vehicles to get the bounty to the donation site. The SSMS sponsored drive doubled its goal, turning in 625 jeans Feb. 9.
The Aéropostale staff was so impressed with Sulphur Springs’ efforts when Boyett delivered them, that they made her aware the drive had been extended another two weeks and challenged her to do more. So, Boyett rose to the challenge.
She set a very ambitious goal of 2,500 and spread the word in the community via the newspaper and media outlets, social media and word of mouth about the new Feb. 22 deadline and goal. Nearly every campus in Sulphur Springs Independent School District hosted at least one drop box, and groups at Paris Junior College promoted the drive and hosted a drop box at their PJC-Sulphur Springs campus.
“I want to thank principals, staff and students for their support. A huge thank you to the following businesses and groups for housing collection boxes: Guaranty Bond Bank, Alliance Bank, Echo Publishing,Main Street Pocket Shoppe, Tractor Supply Company, Sulphur Springs Public Library, Sulphur Springs Police Department, PJC-Sulphur Springs, the Sulphur Springs Chamber of Commerce and South Garland Baptist Church,” 13-year-old Boyett said this week.
Boyett and a few friends and family even got hold of city officials to get permission to host a two-hour collection event Feb. 17 on the downtown square. That netted about 160 pairs of jeans. By Feb. 19, another 297 pairs of jeans had been collected, bringing the tally to 922. A final plea was put out that week, and at least one more business put out a box to allow customers to donate if they wanted. Additional storage space was needed to store the influx of donations.
“We loaded them all up in a borrowed trailer that Joey Baker so generously loaned us, and we took them to Aeropostale early Saturday morning,” the 13-year-old noted.
When the final count was in, the second donation from the Sulphur Springs Jeans For Teens drive more than matched the first. The Sulphur Springs community (with a little assistance from South Garland Baptist Church, where Emma’s grandparents attend) contributed an additional 1,042 pairs of jeans for an overall total of 1,677 pairs of jeans donated to disadvantaged youth in at least two different locations. That’s right, at least two different distribution locations.
“The manager was so excited and told us that they will have to locate another organization to donate to because they filled the first one,” Boyett noted.
The drive may not have reached the lofty 2,500 goal, but there’s no doubt it fulfills Rachel’s Challenge, the intended goal for the drive. It’s a testament to the generosity of this community, whose contributions are not a ripple but a wave of compassion for others. It’s tangible proof that one person can cause a positive chain reaction, by doing something as simple as donating a pair of gently used jeans to help others.
As for Boyett, she’s planning to make Jeans for Teens an annual mission until she graduates high school as long as Aéropostale and DoSomething.org host the annual event.
“I plan to hold this drive each year so please save your jeans and look for collection boxes and signs next January. Thank you again for all your support,” she said.
And, she’s got a jump start on next year. About 30 pairs didn’t get turned in until this week — so they’ll go toward next year’s drive. Any others, she asks people to please hang onto until January to make them count.
“Her plans are to do this each year, then when she is a senior, to recruit someone to take over the drive to keep it going in Sulphur Springs. It is all about that chain reaction of helping others and not thinking only of ones self and I believe that she as well as many others have shown this,” notes Emma’s mom, Jeanine Boyett, adding her thanks for everyone’s generosity and participation.
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