Laura Graham is living proof that one person can make a difference.
After hearing about a friend’s family who had adopted a teen with limited clothing, Graham and her mom started discussing what it would take to help other low-income teens and foster children who might not have the funds to purchase even a basic wardrobe.
“We talked about what it would mean to not have clothing to call your own,” says Laura’s mom, Sue Graham. “Laura knew there were teens who had clothes they had barely worn and decided to start a teen-to-teen clothing drive that would donate new and gently used clothing to local disadvantaged teens.”
After starting the homegrown charitable organization in 2011, Graham, 15, reached out to her friends at Bishop O’ Dowd High School as well as members of the community asking for donations of new and gently-used jeans, pants, shirts and athletic wear that would be appropriate for teens. She designed a logo and business cards for her charity and named it 1 Closet.
The response was overwhelming. Graham quickly collected more than 500 clothing items, which she began sorting and placing in boxes after enlisting the help of 50-plus neighbors in her Rockridge neighborhood to first wash the garments. Each item also had to meet Graham’s criteria.
“I want the donations to be current, in good condition and to make someone feel good about what they’re wearing,” she says.
While obtaining donations was easy, Graham found it was initially difficult to find homes for the clothes.
“We had a lot of organizations turn us down and tell us they didn’t have a way to distribute the clothes to teens,” says Sue Graham.
Fortunately, the Grahams connected with the Boys & Girls Club of Oakland, which happily accepted the first donation of 500 garments. A second donation was recently made to the Boys & Girls Club of West Contra Costa County in Richmond, and a third donation recently went to Alameda County Foster Youth Alliance.
Today, Graham continues to juggle her high school studies with overseeing 1 Closet and organizing clothing drives with high schools in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties including Acalanes, Bentley, College Prep, Head Royce, Monte Vista, Northgate and San Ramon. She has applied for 1 Closet to be an official 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization and is working with employees at retail stores including American Eagle to donate to 1 Closet’s efforts.
“I’ve been shocked by the great response we’ve received and I find it very empowering to be able to help other teens,” Graham says.
To contact 1 Closet, e-mail Laura Graham: firstname.lastname@example.org.