At 8:45 a.m. a line of teenagers stood out in the rain in front of Stanley Steemer patiently waiting for the doors to open. From 9 to 11 a.m. the doors opened and local high school students were treated to whatever clothes, shoes, food items, and school supplies they needed free of charge.
With the cold winter weather and the holidays upon us, Project 150 is bringing a bit of light into the lives of underprivileged Northern Nevada teens. Offering a boutique shopping experience for high school students to be able to take whatever they wanted, there were many grateful looks and smiles on teens’ faces.
“This is the third free teen shopping day that we’ve held in the Reno-Sparks area since Project 150 has expanded into Northern Nevada and it gets better each time,” said Project 150 Reno Director Sue Barry. “People are very appreciative and the kids are just so grateful,” she adds.
“If there’s an option to buy Johnny a new pair of shoes or keep the lights on, we’ll buy the shoes for him,” says Barry.
Event organizer Ashley Machado says that a high school freshman came in with holes in his shoes and was looking for new kicks. He tried on a pair, but they weren’t the right size. Staff went in the back and found a pair of Kevin Durant basketball shoes that fit him perfectly.
“He was so excited and he probably doesn’t even know that those are a $200 pair of shoes,” Machado said.
Project 150 was founded in Las Vegas in 2011 when friends of Barry’s realized that there were 150 homeless teens in one high school. Believing that high school is already hard enough without needing that extra burden, Project 150 stepped in. The organization has helped thousands of teens in Las Vegas and holds items in a 12,000 sq. ft. warehouse and storefront dedicated to the project. In 2013, the Project 150 founders asked Barry to join their team and open up a Project 150 in Northern Nevada.
“I always wanted to be involved in a nonprofit and this fell into my lap. My father was an educator so I’m all about education,” she says. Barry also emphasized that if kids really needed something that the organization doesn’t have, Project 150 will go out and buy it and then deliver it to their school within a few days.
The Northern Nevada chapter of Project 150 owes a lot of its budding success to Sparks’ Stanley Steemer who hosts its business in a 10,000 sq. ft. building- 2,000 of that dedicated to Project 150.
“My husband was involved with the one in Las Vegas. We got this new space in Sparks and it was too much space, so we just donated the extra space,” says Nikki Koch, Stanley Steemer’s proprietor.
“We took over the franchise in March, but Stanley Steemer has been in business in Northern Nevada for over 30 years,” says her husband Brandon Koch. He says he got to know the family who ran Stanley Steemer and admired how involved it was in the community.
“How they operate businesses is exceptional and I want to continue the legacy that they started,” says Koch. “Children are very limited on what they can control at a young age so if we can help their motivation to stay in school and get them to maintain a positive attitude then it makes it all worth it,” he adds.
The Northern Nevada Project 150 chapter serves underprivileged students in 17 high schools located in the Reno-Sparks area. School counselors help identify the teenagers in need and serve as the liaisons between the students and Project 150.
To donate money, new, or gently used items to Project 150, visit drop-off locations at Stanley Steemer (740 Freeport Blvd. Suite #102, Sparks), LoDo Loft (7675 South Virginia Street, Reno), Finance of America (6900 South McCarran Blvd. Suite 2020, Reno), or The Bridge Church (1330 Foster Dr., Reno). For more information about how to get involved with Project 150, visit http://www.project150reno.org/.