Lots of teenagers have jobs, but not many spend their hard-earned cash like two Minnesota teens who are dedicated to helping struggling parents care for their families.
Both 17-year-old Sarah Smith and 16-year-old Marissa Ackerson said they started out with the hopes of helping mothers getting out of difficult situations. They met that goal by providing clothing for children, but the need was greater than they realized.
Now, they've begun Blessings for Babies, which helps single mothers, fathers and struggling families get the goods they need to care for their children.
At 21 months old, Sophia Ernst doesn't have a care in the world -- but the same cannot be said for her parents.
"I don't want her to feel the stress and struggles I go through as a mother," said Stephanie Ernst.
For Ernst, those struggles include finding the resources to put clothes on Sophia's back. As Sophia grew, Ernst, 34, found herself wondering how she would pay for new clothes -- until she found Blessings for Babies, that is.
"It was a blessing at the time. I needed it," Ernst told FOX 9 News. "I've been very grateful and thankful for that."
Smith and Ackerson started their project less than six months ago.
"For me personally, I've been really blessed in my life and I've had the joys of not worrying about basic things," Smith told FOX 9 News. "It's rewarding for me to see that burden taken off of mothers."
That's why Smith recruited her friend to start the organization, which provides clothing for children, from infants to five-year-olds. In less than a year, it's already grown beyond their initial idea to provide car seats and much more.
"We try to put toys in there most of the time, but lately we've been kind of running low," said Ackerson.
The duo does more than take donations. They also use their own allowances and babysitting money when they are running short on supplies. In doing so, they help about 20 families each week.
"We've never turned a parent away to this day and we don't want to," Smith said. "We would love to put out more word and get more families in and help as many people as we can."
One day, Smith and Ackerson hope to raise enough money to turn Blessings for Babies into a non-profit so they can continue to help mothers like Ernst, who never thought teenagers would step up to help her provide for her daughter.
"They say they are blessings for babies, and I do feel very blessed," Ernst said. "I feel God has given me a gift, from them to me."
If you are a person in need or if you want to donate, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.