Karina Mata studies biology at the University of Nevada. However, the freshman grew up in Las Vegas where an estimated 6,000 high school students have no place to call home. “It's crazy. There are a lot of kids out here who need help and you don't even know it." While Karina did not share that struggle, she knew a lot of kids who did. So she volunteered to help them at area donation closets. Tucked away in dozens of the schools, teenagers are able to shop for free clothing, food, toiletries and class supplies. Project 150 is the non-profit responsible for keeping the closets stocked.
Project 150 was born in Las Vegas after one high school reported 150 of its students homeless. Don Purdue found out many of the teens lived in motels, cars and some couch-surfed. So in December 2011, he launched Project 150 to provide these students with whatever they need to stay in school. Volunteers strive to keep their identities discrete, but Karina says there’s no hiding their excitement when they get something new. “They were very happy. You see their smiles and it's the whole world to them to get a pair of jeans and it's like wow."
That reaction inspired Sue Barry to bring Project 150 up north. “Our whole goal is to help any kid and every kid who needs it and wants to stay in school.” Barry relies on a village to make that happen. Dozens of volunteers collect, sort and distribute donations, like Liz McFarland. “We have a lot of clothes with tags right now, so that's exciting cause people don't get to shop.” But this weekend they will get the opportunity to shop at The Bridge Church on Foster Drive near Reno High School where Project 150 Reno will host its first Free Teen Shopping Day event. Pastor Bill West garnered support from his congregation and says he is overwhelmed by the community’s generosity, too. “When a lot of people get together to do small things, it becomes something huge."
Karina will also be part of the inaugural event and is hopeful students who need help will seek help. “We’re not here to judge you.” If you are a high school student or know someone who could needs assistance, the Free Teen Shopping Day is Saturday, September 17th at The Bridge Church on Foster Drive. Students can shop between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. RTC bus passes will also be available and Lodo Loft will be providing free haircuts on-site. To learn more, log onto www.project150reno.org.