Story and photos by Nancy McGuire.
Unfortunately, for many girls, the costs associated with attending their school prom can be prohibitive. The Prom Closet seeks to erase that barrier so that all who wish to attend have the means to do so. The current need is great, and the impact on participating families can be a tremendous financial relief.
The Prom Closet is open to ALL high school-age girls– some girls have even driven from Oklahoma and Arkansas. The event is open for two weeks and is entirely free of charge. Prom Closet organizers work closely with local high schools, area guidance counselors, and local media to ensure the word gets out about the event. This year, the appointment dates for Prom Closet are Feb. 7-9. 13. and 11-18.
Once a participant arrives, she and one guest (age 16 or over) can meet a personal shopper who helps the girls navigate the more than 5,000 dresses on hand this year. After choosing that perfect dress, the girls are ushered into the shoe section and, finally, the accessory section to pick out just the right jewelry, bag, and wrap to complete their outfits.
Although the Prom Closet is only officially open in February, much of the work is coordinated year-round by collecting donations from Parishioners, community members, local businesses, and even past participants who want to “give back” to this event.
Dresses range in size from 0-30, shoes come in all sizes, and jewelry designs range from simple earrings to intricate necklaces. The ultimate goal is to make each girl feel special and to transform each into the fairy princess she has always dreamed of becoming for that special night.
For Susan and Ann, it has become a yearly mission to assist with Prom Closet each year. As a member of the St. Andrew Methodist Women in Faith group, Susan helped organize Prom Closet in its infancy. She has seen it grow and become one of the church’s largest missions serving the local community.
This growth has been particularly gratifying to Susan as more and more girls get to experience prom without it being a burden on their family’s budgets. Although she was too young to work during her teen years, Ann helped early on with outreach, spreading the word about the Prom Closet. As a college student, she would return home to work alongside her mother.
When asked what aspect they enjoy most about their volunteer work with Prom Closet, they quickly reply that check-out is their favorite. At this point, Susan and Ann get to visit with each girl and experience their joy. “We never tire seeing the over-the-moon joy in each girl’s face when they have completed the process,” says Ann.
Susan happily recalls helping one client return to Prom Closet with her second daughter after going through the process with her oldest some years back. Her oldest had such a happy experience picking out her outfit, but the Mom was unsure whether her youngest would feel the same, as this child was convinced she would never find the right dress. After spending quite some time combing through the racks, the young girl came upon just the right one. “Her face lit up, and she just knew she had hit the jackpot,” Susan says.
For Susan and Ann, those are the moments that live on and encourage them to come back each year to witness another girl’s joy in experiencing “Barbie’s Dreamhouse Closet,” as they refer to it. Ann believes there is no better feeling than seeing fairy tale dreams come true.
A link has also been set up on Amazon for those who might wish to purchase carefully curated items for the Prom Closet. Items will be directly shipped to the church, Prom Closet Wish List.