Students spearhead clothing drive

At a time when teenagers are thinking about the gifts they want for Christmas, four Ashland High School students are working instead to bring some holiday cheer to those less fortunate.

Students from Aaron Sturdevant's AHS government class decided they were going to put a twist on a traditional class project, by starting their own clothing drive for the poor.

The students — AHS seniors Katie Shulenberger, Mason Terrill, Natasha Brooks and Shelby Bennett — spent recent weeks organizing the clothing drive, collecting hats, coats, scarves and gloves from their peers.

"It was part of a political participation activity," Sturdevant said. "They were the ones that decided to put on the clothing drive, to lend a hand to the community."

The students distributed clothes Tuesday afternoon at Uncle Food's Diner, a community meals program held weekly at the First United Methodist Church.

Sturdevant and his students arrived around 2:30 p.m. There they unloaded the clothes — piled high in boxes and trash bags — and set them inside the church.

"We have five or six boxes full of clothes," said Mason Terrill, while unloading a box filled with jackets from Sturdevant's station wagon. "They're pretty big boxes, too."

The group put about 15 hours into organizing the drive. While others counted the days until winter vacation, they spent their lunch time in Sturdevant's classroom, setting up bins for the clothes drive and creating fliers to advertise the event.

Katie Shulenberger said that, between a full course-load and basketball practice, she didn't think she would have much time for volunteering. But the clothes drive made her realize anyone with a few minutes to spare can make a difference in someone else's life.

"So many people in this community have so much," Shulenberger said. "It's important for us to give back to people that don't."

AHS students and staff members responded to the drive by donating scores of old but usable winter wear. Within two weeks, the boxes placed around campus were overflowing with clothes.

Terrill said he was glad to see so many of his fellow students answering the call to help others.

"There are people every year who need clothes," he said. "Especially right now, these are hard times, and people are going cold. It just makes me feel good to help people in need."

The students received an unexpected boost over the weekend. An AHS student with family ties to Levi Strauss & Co. heard about the drive and worked to get the company involved. Shortly after the students arrived, a vehicle loaded with about 100 pairs of pants and 50 shirts pulled up to the church, adding to the ample array of gear already lining the church wall.

"It's great," Sturdevant said, as he watched the piles grow. "It's a wonderful opportunity to get more clothes and distribute them to families in need."

Soon after, the patrons at Uncle Foods Diner took their pick among the various garments. The leftovers were returned to Sturdevant, who said he would distribute them to the Ashland Key Club, a coalition of high school students addressing issues around the city.

"Community service is definitely political participation," Sturdevant said. "I was thrilled these students chose to do this. I love to see them getting involved in the community."

Terrill was just as thrilled.

"I feel great about it," he said.

"This is the type of thing that teenagers can do," Sturdevant added. "It was a chance for them to learn the value of service to the community, and I'm so glad they were able to step up."

Elon Glucklich is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at eglucklich@gmail.com.

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