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10,000 pounds of good deeds

Life Teen youth ministry holds clothing drive to benefit St. Vincent de Paul Society

Posted: September 19, 2008 8:57 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Volunteers dropped off bags of shirts, pants and jackets during the Life Teen's clothing drive for the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Los Angeles. By the end of the weekend, 10,000 pounds of clothing were collected.

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The teens who were part of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church's high school youth ministry Life Teen didn't have a lot of expectations when they organized their first clothing drive as part of a global Life Teen benefit.

So they went with the international organization's worldwide goal of gathering 50,000 pounds of shirts, pants and jackets to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Los Angeles.

While they didn't achieve their goal, they still made a hefty donation. The 30 teens managed to collect 10,044 pounds of much-needed outfits for the less fortunate through a two-day drive last weekend.

And that number doesn't include the dozens of pairs of shoes they collected.

"We had no idea we could do this," said Maureen Dunnahoo, acting youth minister who oversees Life Teen with her husband, Kelly.

Dunnahoo recalled when the St. Vincent volunteers pulled up to haul the clothing away from the Saugus church.
"We filled an entire St. Vincent de Paul truck," she said.

Dunnahoo credits the majority of donations to the generosity of the church's parishioners.

"There's something about our parish," she said. "No matter what we've ever asked for, they always come through."

One donor brought the clothing of his father, who recently died.

"He ended up bringing an entire truck load of his father's clothing to us to help somebody else," she said.

The man told Dunnahoo that it was what his father would have wanted him to do with the clothing.

Others brought maternity clothing and even bedding, she said.

Despite the hard work of putting on the clothing drive, Dunnahoo said there are plans to make the drive annual.

"That was just too much fun," she said, adding the teens were really able to get into it and understand Christ.

A global drive
Last weekend's drive was part of an international effort by more than 1,000 other Life Teen parishes around the world.

The event, known as "Give it Away Now!" is the ministry's way of teaching teens about charity and service, Dunnahoo said.

Although the international drive is planned for Sept. 28, Dunnahoo said Blessed Kateri's Life Teen held their collection last weekend due to a scheduling conflict on Sept. 28.

Along with the drive, Dunnahoo said the weekend featured other events that focused on charity and the importance of service.

The goal was to show others the simplicity of sharing and what can be done with what they have, she said.

Nathan Artiles was one of the teens on hand to take donations and load the clothing onto the truck.

The 17-year-old Saugus resident has been part of Life Teen for about a year and a half and took part in his first clothing drive.

"It was a really great experience knowing we were helping people," he said.

The experience gave Artiles an understanding of what other people go through in life.

"I learned that there were people that were less fortunate than me and my friends," he said, adding that the drive gave him a way to help them.

He described the volunteer opportunity as something that felt good, and he would most likely lend a hand again in the future.

Understanding Christ
The clothing drive is one aspect of Life Teen's goal of impacting the lives of teens in dozens of countries.

Dunnahoo described Life Teen as a ministry that "leads teens closer to Christ."

It's also a source of empowerment.

Dunnahoo said teens are frequently told they are the leaders of tomorrow when they are truly the "citizens of today and leaders of today."

By teaching the teens how to assume responsibilities, leadership roles will become much more natural later on.

Blessed Kateri's Life Teen program is open to all high school-age students. Dunnahoo said students don't have to be Catholic to enter.

Helping others
The donated clothing is more than protection for the body.

"A nicer outfit can give you that little extra encouragement," Dunnahoo said.

Gloria Jara, a conference department coordinator for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, said the clothing benefits the organization's thrift store as well as families who apply for a voucher program.

After families are approved, Jara said they take part in a free distribution, during which parents and kids pick up their much-needed outfits.

"It's going to help a lot, especially in these rough times," she said.

Thanks to the efforts of the teens, Jara said they are now considered "saints in the making."

Brian Pickering, public relations coordinator, shared Jara's feelings, especially as the organization continues to see a lot of working poor families.

"It's through donations like this that we are able to continue to help those in need," he said.


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