Tidings for Teens held its annual shopping event for foster youth Sunday, for the first time as a nonprofit organization.
“Their mission is so inspiring,” said Joelle Danahy, who helped the organization become a nonprofit.
Tidings for Teens was founded in 2014 by Kelly Meena, and Tammey, Jessica and Kaylin Mai. Their goal remains the same – to give the foster youth the tools to succeed through clothes.
Just before some of the foster youth’s first day of school, they were given $100 to shop at Old Navy for clothes.
There were 180 foster youth, with 30 being transitional foster youth (18 years old and older), selected to participate in the event. The Department of Children and Family Services selects the foster youth who get to attend based on those who are in need of it most.
Meena and the Mai family raised roughly $9,000 for this event and Augusta Financial matched the amount, dollar for dollar.
To prepare for the event, Meena and the Mai family worked all summer organizing and raising funds.
“It’s a lot of stress, anxiety, but mostly…” said Jessica.
“It’s humbling and (we’re) grateful for how well our community just wants to pitch in,” added Kaylin.
The Mai family estimates that there were 50 volunteers at the shopping event. The volunteers included Bay Center Foods employees, cheerleaders, members of the community and even a Star Wars stormtrooper.
“Our team members want to always give back to their communities because they’re so fortunate of where they are,” said Angie Martin of Bay Center Foods.
Bay Center Foods also provided each one of the foster youths with a backpack filled with school supplies.
In addition to this year being their first as a nonprofit, this was also Tidings for Teens’ first year having foster youth from the Antelope Valley attend.
To get to Old Navy from the Antelope Valley, it takes roughly 55 minutes, according to Google Maps. However, all of the volunteers for the event worked together and provided their own transportation for these children to ensure that every kid selected was able to attend.
“We did not want anyone missing out,” said Michelle Penez, assistant regional administrator at the DCFS Palmdale office.
Each foster youth was paired with a volunteer “shopping buddy” for their shopping experience, if their foster family or other guardian were not able to attend. Volunteers helped the children pick out appropriate clothing for school and guided them toward building a complete back-to-school wardrobe.
Emma Hamilton, a cheerleader from West Ranch High School, was paired with a 6-year-old boy. Hamilton said the boy was ecstatic to be able to not only pick out a Minecraft shirt for himself, but also be able to purchase it.
“It made me so happy,” said Hamilton.
The clothes these kids purchased that day gave them the opportunity to wear something new going into a new school year and meet workplace dress codes.