Video+Story: Burges Twins Open Thrift Store for Low-Income Students

Identical twins Isabella and Arabella Cadena brought new life into the old custodial quarters behind Burges High School, transforming it from a storage area into a new thrift store that benefits students who may not be able to afford clothes for school.

The twins officially dedicated Bella’s Bargains Friday giving the Burges community a new place to donate, trade and buy clothes for next to nothing or even free for those truly in need.

“The whole point of the store is for kids to come and get anything they might need, whether it be clothes or blankets,” Arabella said.

The idea for Bella’s Bargains came after years of community service projects as Girl Scouts and their involvement with clothing drives for the Rainbow Room, which serves children involved in Child Protective Services cases. As high school students, they realized the need within their own community when they started tutoring at-risk middle school students.

“We felt there was a need in the community for a place that can provide clothes,” said Isabella. “We want students to know that it’s here for them. If they need it, they shouldn’t feel ashamed to come in. We’re here for everybody.”

Bella’s Bargain faculty advisor Alice Drury, who nicknamed them the Bellas, has been a fan of the twins since their freshman year.

“I admire and respect what they’re doing,” she said. “They are truly humble girls that really want to make their world a better place.”

Inside Bella’s Bargains, the girls and other volunteers decorated the former house with lights and signs to give the store an inviting, boutique-like look. They crafted a dressing room out of PVC pipes and curtains and set up racks organized by clothing size. Shoes, blankets and other items are neatly organized throughout the store.

“I think it is such a blessing to our community,” Drury said. “It brings awareness to students about providing clothing for those that are in need.”

So far, items in the store have mostly come from Burges faculty and staff. They are hoping for community donations, too, especially menswear. All items inside the tiny store go for $5 or less with funds raised going back to the store.

“Right now, we’re open to just the Burges High School community. Hopefully, in the future, we can open up for the entire EPISD community,” Arabella said.

The community service aspect is important to the Bellas, and they hope the store inspires students to make contributions and volunteer to make a difference for their fellow Mustangs.

“You’re helping people in your life,” Arabella said. “Maybe everything is good for you right now but there are people who don’t have a great life like you do. You can come in and donate clothes and participate in this community project.”

Drury also hopes more students will get involved in Bella’s Bargains.

“It is a valuable learning experience and kids genuinely want to help and give back and this is a starting place,” Drury said. “Who knows where it’s going to lead them? How it’s going to nurture their heart? How it’s going to inspire them?”

The twins expect to see the store grow and continue even after their graduation. They will be leaving their legacy in the capable hands of their freshman sister, Mia Cadena.

“I have to make sure it doesn’t die out,” Mia said. “Clothing was our first part because we saw the need, but there’s also a need for toiletries and school supplies. We are seeing more and more often that kids don’t even have pencils.”

Mia looks forward to making sure Bella’s Bargains becomes a Burges tradition, benefiting students for years to come.

“I’m just excited, and I’m so proud of my sisters for getting this done,” Mia said. “I will get to have this as well. It’s part of our family.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy | Video by Raymond Jackson/EPISD