MARY ESTHER — Soon-to-be high school freshman Dayvaunie Lewis said he’s not used to “new.”
Thanks to one local clothing store owner, however, the 14-year-old said he’s becoming very familiar with the idea.
On Monday, Dayvaunie arrived at Juice Locker Room in Mary Esther ready to begin his back-to-school shopping spree. Store owners Pierre and Teriza Collazo invited the teen to their shop after learning his parents were unable to buy him new clothes for school.
“We’re just trying to give back to the community and do something positive,” Pierre Collazo said. “I can identify with the struggle. We try to help people out who can’t help themselves. Everyone needs a boost at times and get positioned so they can be great.”
Before the student’s arrival, the store owners ordered new merchandise in his size and style. In all, Dayvaunie brought home six new shirts tops and bottoms.
“It’s going to weird me out at first to have new clothes, but I’m excited,” Dayvaunie said. “It’s a good feeling knowing that I can rely on people for help if I really need it.”
Mary Thompson, a mentor for high-risk teens who organized the project, said receiving new clothes gives students confidence they need to excel in school.
“Davioni was just stoked as we were driving here,” Thompson said. “He was so nervous that he was shaking on his way up here and couldn’t even eat. He’s so excited. His mom called me today in tears and said to thank Pierre and his wife.”
The shopping spree was bittersweet for Thompson and the Collazos, they said. Another teen who was supposed to join Dayvaunie on the shopping trip was arrested over the weekend.
“He’s in detention right now,” Thompson said. “It hurts. It hurts because I’ve been there before and I know how it is to be impulsive and make wrong decisions and not have anyone to look up to.”
Thompson said she wants the 13-year-old to know he will still have clothes waiting for him after he serves his time.
“I know he doesn’t see his full potential, but we do,” she said. “He doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep, what he’s going to eat and what he’s going to wear.
“We’ll be there to help him when he gets out.”