Taking in and giving back
Classroom learning is one thing, but another key aspect to landing a job and building a successful future is real-world experience.
That’s the goal behind Bling N’ Blue Jeans, a secondhand clothing and prom dress store established through a partnership between Red Wing Youth Outreach and Workforce Development.
“We were looking to do some kind of work experience (program) for youth,” said Mandy Arden, case manager with Youth Outreach.
Arden said the store was devised as an extension of the organization’s life coaching program for area high school students — something to help youths learn new skills and get out into the community.
“Not only job-specific skills,” Arden said, “but also social and emotional skills.”
Bling N’ Blue Jeans employs five teenagers who signed up for the program at the Workforce Center, she added. Workforce Development pays their wages while Youth Outreach provides the programming.
Besides that, Arden said, the youths have played an integral role in the venture — from helping develop the business plan to collecting donations and marketing to the public.
“They really did everything,” she said. “It’s been pretty amazing.”
In all, Arden estimates that as many as 30 teenage volunteers have participated in the program since the store was originally envisioned more than a year ago.
Getting off the ground
Bling N’ Blue Jeans debuted to the public Jan. 4 at the Youth Outreach building off Guernsey Lane behind Red Wing High School.
The store — open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons to start — sells a variety of clothing items, including tops, coats, belts, handbags, footwear, accessories and of course jeans.
The clothes were provided through donations from the community, Arden said. They also stock a selection of prom dresses donated by Maurices.
The store has seen modest business so far, said Josh Terrio and Desiree Juaire, youth workers with Youth Outreach who help supervise the employees. But the program is about more than bringing in sales.
“Most of these students are getting ready to have their own jobs or graduate high school,” Terrio said. “So getting them ready for that is what we like to do.”
Youth Outreach is accepting donations of gently used clothes and accessories to be sold in the store, Juaire said. Items can be dropped off at Bling N’ Blue Jeans during store hours or at the adjacent Youth Outreach building during other times.
Although the workers are asking for merchandise donations, Youth Outreach says Bling N’ Blue Jeans is dedicated to giving back to the community as well.
Except for prom dresses, none of the clothes are priced above $5, Arden said.
“We sell them cheap because we want youth who are unable to afford clothes come in a get things,” she said, adding that some items will be given free of charge to families in need.
Additionally, profit from the store goes to further fund Youth Outreach programming, something the organization says will help area children become productive and responsible adults.
What: Bling N’ Blue Jeans used clothing store
Where: 410 Guernsey Lane
Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 2-5 p.m.; Saturdays noon-6 p.m.
More info: 651-388-3371