Interview and Photos by Jan Osborn.
For many girls, attending senior prom is not something they can afford. Imagine a place where a girl can choose the dress of her dreams along with shoes, jewelry, and other accessories – ALL at NO cost. Thanks to some very special ladies – a.k.a. fairy godmothers – Prom Closet at St. Andrew United Methodist Church is that place.
It first began in 2009, when Devra Helffrich and her friends in the United Methodist Women of St. Andrew in Plano were searching for an idea for their yearly mission project. Jane Marshall, one of the group’s leaders, had a daughter who worked for a local school district. She had noticed a huge need for girls to acquire prom attire so they could attend their senior proms. Jane asked Devra to help organize the event and bring it to fruition. The idea to provide a unique shopping experience for young ladies who because of finances would be unable to attend prom was presented to the group, and all agreed to move forward with Prom Closet. Since that time, Jane has stepped back, and Devra along with two other ladies, Nancy Adams and Laura Stengle, have continued to organize the event. The program, which remains a service of the United Methodist Women, also depends on many additional volunteers from the community. In 2019, a total of 506 volunteers assisted with Prom Closet serving in a variety of areas.
The first Prom Closet in March 2009 opened with 300 donated dresses. Thirty-five girls came to shop. In 2020 (2021 Prom Closet was canceled due to the pandemic), 1,339 girls from 251 schools received dresses and accessories – all donated by church and community members, local groups, corporations, and businesses. Organizers and volunteers confirm that not only is the need great, but the impact the dress makes on the girl and her family is immeasurable.
“Senior Prom is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and we are happy to be able to serve the girls in our community and beyond so their prom dreams can come true,” said Devra Helffrich. “Prom Closet serves girls from anywhere – even outside of the DFW area. In 2019 we had shoppers from as far away as Germany and Switzerland (two exchange students), who had only heard of prom in the movies before they came to the United States. Both selected the first dress they tried on and were all smiles as they headed over to look at jewelry, shoes, and purses. Every year we hear girls say – with their eyes lighting up upon entering the doors of Prom Closet, ‘Now I can go to prom.’”
The room is set up like a boutique. Each girl checks in for her appointment and then will be greeted by a personal shopper, who will help her find dress racks with her size. (For this year’s Prom Closet, there are currently 3,000 dresses available.) Once she has selected her dress, she can try it on in one of 20 dressing rooms. To complete her special prom look, she then visits the boutique to select jewelry, shoes, handbag, and a wrap.
Prom Closet 2022 will take place over a two-week period: February 15, 16, 17 & 19 and 21 – 26 in Smith Worship Center, at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, with advance registration required. This year advance registration is required to improve the overall shopping experience and minimize wait times for the shoppers. To register for a 1.5-hour time slot, visit www.standrewumc.org/promcloset. Volunteers may also sign up on this site.
Prom Closet provides donated dresses, sizes 0-30, as well as accessories such as jewelry, shoes, handbags, and wraps. All of it is available at no cost. Requirements for shoppers are the following: each girl must sign up online for an appointment, each girl must be present to shop for her own dress, and each girl is allowed to bring ONE guest, age 16 or older with them. A personal shopper volunteer will assist each shopper throughout the process. There will be 20 shopping slots per 1.5-hour time frame.
Area school counselors have been provided information about the annual Prom Closet on their campuses. Community members, businesses, organizations, and local groups donate dresses, shoes, wraps, jewelry, handbags, and other accessories for this annual event. Some dresses have never been worn.
The Prom Closet is accepting donations of dresses (sizes 0-30), jewelry, shoes, handbags, and wraps. All donations may be dropped off at St. Andrew, January 14 – February 25, in Room 121, Monday – Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday 8:30 – 1 p.m.; Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.; and Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Use North entry door located off the north parking lot, 1401 Mira Vista. A link on Amazon is available for anyone that would like to help by purchasing items, which will be shipped directly to the church. To review items available for purchase, https://tinyurl.com/PromClosetWishList
Visit www.standrewumc.org/promcloset, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 469-385-1810 for more information.
“We are overjoyed to announce we will host Prom Closet this year and are excited to try advance registration, eliminating long lines and providing plenty of space for each shopper to select her perfect dress and accessories,” said Devra Helffrich, an original organizer of prom closet. “Obviously, we could not do this without the support and donations from the community and our wonderful volunteers. We collect dresses, shoes, jewelry, wraps, handbags, and other accessories year ‘round, and we can’t thank the community enough for helping so many girls’ prom dreams come true. This will be the 13th year we have held Prom Closet, which has grown to be an extraordinary way to reach out and help the community.”