Jeans team

Nippy air brushed the faces of Tuttle Elementary students as they entered the school building Friday morning.

Inside, piles of jeans lined the school's halls.

Thanks to Tuttle's students, and many donors in Maiden and surrounding communities, the jeans will soon warm the cold bodies of needy citizens in the region.

"You've got to know that you've made a huge difference in the lives of more than 2,500 people, because that's how many jeans you've collected," Principal DeAnna Finger told Tuttle's student body during Friday morning school announcements.

Jeans of all sizes in powder blue, navy, gray and black fell into laundry baskets and recycling bins as nearly 30 student council members and a group of staff members sorted the pants.

On Monday, the group will deliver the jeans to the Aeropostale clothing store at Valley Hills Mall in Hickory. Aeropostale will distribute the jeans to crisis-assistance organizations in Catawba and surrounding counties.

"It feels good to help people who don't have enough clothes," said Ivy Eller, a sixth-grader and Tuttle's student council president. "There were, like, a lot of jeans. The third day or so, a whole room was filled. It feels good that our families and friends would do all this."

Jeans for the drive came from businesses. They also came from collections at Maiden's high school and middle school and numerous community donors.

"When you get done with a pair, you can give them to someone who has nothing," said Grant Harris, a fifth-grader and the student council vice president. "That's what people did."

Tuttle's jean drive started Jan. 16 as part of a national effort and contest through, an organization that encourages teenagers to enact social change through fundraisers and community projects.

The organization has helped orchestrate the collection of more than 1.5 million pairs of jeans in the past four years through its Teens for Jeans program. Nationally, the school that collects the most jeans in this year's contest wins $5,000 and a pair of jeans for every student.

Tuttle, which participated in Teens for Jeans for the first time this year, will receive a 25-percent-off coupon for each pair of pants it delivers to Aeropostale. Rita Lail's kindergarten class collected the most pairs, and every student in the class will receive a pair of jeans, Finger said.

"We have kids in the Maiden feeder (system) who will benefit from these jeans we collected, too," said Finger. "They'll get them back because they need them."

The school expects additional pairs of jeans to arrive in the coming days, and those will also find the hands of crisis assistance organizations and the bodies of needy people in the area.

"We said any size, any style," said Nichole Ijames, Tuttle's assistant principal. "The economy doesn't discriminate."

Finger said the jeans drive began last month with a video set in a homeless shelter.
People in such situations will soon wear the jeans Tuttle's students collected. Students decided to join the jean effort because it's getting cold outside, and the clothing will keep the needy warm, said Easton Finger, a fifth-grader and student council secretary.

"The effort is to make it a local impact," Principal Finger said. "We want kids in this day in time to have that piece to want to help others. As an adult, if you want to help your community, you've got to have that sympathy piece. From the school standpoint, we want to have that. This effort gave everybody a chance to contribute."