Beauty pageant star pays fashion forward

Grace Myler, 14, comes out to ‘The Hog Room’ to prepare for a free shopping spree for under-priveleged high school girls in August. (Photo by Brittany Link Photography)
Grace Myler, 14, comes out to ‘The Hog Room’ to prepare for a free shopping spree for under-privileged high school girls in August. (Photo by Brittany Link Photography)

Myler launches Threads for Teens to support under-privileged high school girls in neighboring counties

By Melissa Priebe
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In a furnished “hog shed” on the edge of two counties, a beauty pageant winner irons and presses donated clothing, then hangs the fashions on racks scattered throughout the room. Grace Myler, the 2016 Miss Minnesota Jr. Teen, is working with her mother and grandmother to launch her first charity boutique.

Offered through a nonprofit called Threads for Teens, the boutique gives under-privileged girls ages 13 to 18 a chance to choose new and gently used outfits, accessories and shoes at no cost, along with unlimited school supplies. The boutique is available by appointment only, but it’s open to any teenage girl who is nominated by an adult.

Hosted in a pop-up location in Lester Prairie, the “shopping” experience opened to high school girls in Carver County and McLeod County on Friday, Aug. 19. The Thread for Teens boutique served high school girls for three days, giving away at least one trend-forward outfit to each teen, just in time for the new school year.

“This is really like a dream come true,” said Grace, a 14-year-old who lives in Shakopee. Grace attends Southwest Christian High School in Chaska, and she has been working for more than a year to get the project up and running. “We’ve been driving all over Minnesota, getting donations from friends and family.”

Grace is one of five young women across the country who were selected as local organizers for Threads for Teens.

The organization itself was founded by Allyson Ahlstrom, who was just 14 at the time. Her boutique launched in Windsor, California, in 2011, and since then, 3,500 girls have been served. Although Grace has participated in many opportunities through pageant competitions, she discovered her drive to help people long before she became a teenager.

“When I was 11, I saw Allyson come on the Disney Channel and talk about Threads for Teens,” said Grace. “I was really inspired by what she was doing, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Grace reached out to Allyson, and in 2015, the social entrepreneur reached out to Grace, asking her if she wanted to start a Threads for Teens location in Minnesota. Since then, the project has taken on the feel of a business start-up, as Grace and her mother, Katie Myler, have worked tirelessly to collect donations and set up a physical location.

With the project still in its youth, it proved difficult to get things off the ground.

“We had initially wanted to open a boutique, but we haven’t been able to find a location to open it,” said Myler. “Our family has a farm in Lester Prairie, and on the farm we have a couple of cottages and what we call ‘The Hog Shed.’ My mother has generously offered to let us set up there.”

Located near the county line in McLeod County, “The Hog Shed” is a shed that has been converted into a party room, designed to look like a chic and cozy cottage. Lacy white furniture lines the room and inspirational quotes dot the walls, with knick-knacks that create an inviting atmosphere, in a space the size of a small shop.

That’s where about 25 girls from neighboring counties went on a shopping spree, getting everything they needed to go back to school – from pencils and paper to backpacks and a brand new look.

Grace said they also have a Mary Kay team coming out to offer make-overs, and the girls have the option to take a Polaroid photo in their new outfit.

Myler, Grace’s mom, said this is just the first of many pop-up boutiques they plan to host. While they are open to new locations, they want to encourage residents of both counties to donate new and gently used clothing and to nominate girls in need, which can be done on the organization’s website at www.threadsforteens.org.

“We are looking to serve low income families, as well as girls in foster care situations and girls in homeless situations,” said Myler. “They can be nominated by any adult, a teacher, a counselor, a social worker.”

For the first event, Myler reached out to the social services division of Carver County and McLeod County to find eligible participants.

As a result, dozens of girls from foster homes or even homeless situations were nominated and invited to take a free “shopping spree.” They took advantage of the opportunity to put together a whole outfit and participated in the larger event, which was designed around boosting the confidence of the teen girls.

Grace, who will go on to compete in the National American Miss pageant in November, is happy to take her good fortune and pay it forward.

“We want everybody to have a new outfit to wear to school,” said Grace. “It’s a way to express yourself and your personality and to feel confident.”

Already, the Mylers are planning for the next pop-up boutique, which will take place at “The Hog Shed” on Saturday, Sept. 1.

The events are not open to the public, but anyone interested in donating, sponsoring or participating can call Katie Myler at (952) 564-0705.

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