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Teen Jefferson Award Winner Combines Love Of Fashion And Passion For Helping Others

WINDSOR (CBS 5) - Sometimes fashion means something more important than looking good. And that's why this week's Jefferson Award winner is giving away the latest styles.

While most teenage girls are scouring stores for back to school clothes at the mall, 17-year-old Allyson Ahlstrom is busy putting the finishing touches on her own store. It's been about three years since she first set her mind to combining her love of fashion with community service.

"That's how Threads for Teens came about," she said, sitting among the racks in her new boutique. "I'd heard about prom dress drives before and I thought, 'Why not take it one step further to full clothes?'"

Not just any clothes - Ahlstrom started Threads for Teens to provide new, stylish fashions for free to teens who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford them.

"Buckle donated these jeans and they are BKE, which is really nice," Ahlstrom explained, displaying a pair.

Other top brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Vans, and Hot Topic all wanted to help, so what started as Ahlstrom's school project grew into a year-round non-profit.

"Here I am, 14 years old, asking for donations," Ahlstrom remembered. "I had no idea. In fact, all the donations started rolling in and started taking over our house."

Until now, she's been operating out of donated office space. But her dream was to have a store. Thanks to a donation, she's opening a permanent space. When the new Threads for Teens store opens in Windsor, it will mark two years and almost 200 head-to-toe outfits Ahlstrom has proved high school girls in the North Bay.

Shopping is by appointment only, and clients must be referred through schools or social service agencies. Eighteen-year-old Alma Tovar was referred to Threads for Teens by her high school counselor.

"I was like, 'I don't have to pay for this, are you serious? It's all free?'" remarked Tovar with a big smile.

"They get self esteem to go out and feel confident in what they wear," Ahlstrom added. "That confidence just carries over into their whole life."

Tovar agreed, "I think that's totally true because you don't want to walk around in old stuff because it make you feel down."

Ahlstrom is headed into her senior year of high school and plans to go to college. Her mother has agreed to mentor other students who will volunteer to carry Threads for Teens forward. Now with the new store, Ahlstrom is hoping they'll serve more girls than ever.

"It makes me feel happy that I'm making even a small difference in someone's life," Ahlstrom said. "That's my goal - to help others realize their dreams and realize their full potential."

So for outfitting teenagers with clothes and confidence, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Allyson Ahlstrom.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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