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East Bethel Teen Uses Paycheck To Buy Gifts For Homeless

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — We know what a lot of teenagers want for Christmas: things like cell phones and Xboxes.

Jessica Peterson, 17, of East Bethel is not like those teenagers. She got what she wanted on Christmas Eve by making a difference.

Serving tacos and nachos after school at a Taco Bell in Coon Rapids earns Peterson less than $8 an hour. Serving the less fortunate on Christmas Eve earns her a very warm feeling.

With $450 she made over two weeks in November, Jessica went on a shopping spree. She had never met the people on her list.

Her gifts were for the people at Stepping Stone, the only adult homeless shelter in Anoka County.

It’s full, as usual, on Christmas week, with 60 adults living there.

Joan Bednarczyk is the former president of Stepping Stone. She said help is always welcome – especially from someone so young.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I don’t know how she found out about us, but we’re grateful.”

It was Peterson’s pastor who recommended Stepping Stone. And each gift bag was personalized with a resident’s name.

“They gave us all the names and the sizes they wanted,” Peterson said, “and then my mom wrote out cards for each one that’ll say something different.”

Peterson’s mother, Liz Uram, said her daughter has always been a giving person.

“She really wanted to do something much more personal,” she said, “and to have more of that personal touch rather than just dropping something anonymously.”

John Haring is living at the shelter with his wife.

“To be that young and unselfish like that, it’s rare,” he said.

Peterson says it’s what she believes Christmas is all about.

“Right now, it’s nice to know that people care about them,” she said, “and they’re not alone in the world.”

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