High school prom is a rite of passage. And though it is a time of celebration and joy, the associated costs can cause stress for some students and their families. Annually for the past 12 years, Plano’s St. Andrew United Methodist Church has hosted Prom Closet, an opportunity for high school girls to receive a donated dress, shoes and jewelry – all absolutely free – so they can attend prom.
Devra Helffrich and Jane Marshall started Prom Closet in 2009 because they saw a need. Later, Laura Stengle and Nancy Adams came on as part of the leadership team.
“Jane’s daughter-in-law was a teacher and saw firsthand that there were girls who couldn’t afford to get a dress, so she suggested it as a project,” Nancy shared.
“Every year we talk with moms who say, ‘We didn’t know how we were going to pay,’” Laura recalled. “But when they find the dress, both the mom and the daughter just light up.”
This year’s Prom Closet takes place Feb. 18-22 at the Smith Worship Center at St. Andrew’s. The room is set up like a boutique. Each girl will be greeted as she enters and directed to dress racks for her size. Once she has selected her dress, she can try it on in one of 30 dressing rooms. Then she may look for jewelry, shoes, a handbag and a wrap.
This special event is open to all high school girls in the country, and has had attendees from as far away as Arkansas, New York, and even exchange students from Germany and Switzerland. Over the past decade, nearly 6,800 students have shopped the event.
“Some of these girls have never had the opportunity to go to a store and try things on, so they don’t know what size they are. They’re so used to just wearing what they’re given, that having the chance to find the perfect-fitting dress – it is such a special experience for them,” Laura said.
Nancy recalled one truly exceptional experience. “There was a girl that shopped last year with her mother who was terminally ill. By the time prom came around, her mom had passed away, but they had gotten to have that time together here.”
Currently, there are about four thousand dresses available to give away. The planning committee still has a need for donated shoes, bags, jewelry – and is always accepting more dresses. The committee is also looking for volunteers to work the event.
“Once you start volunteering for this, you can’t stop coming. It warms your heart,” said Laura.
Prom Closet 2020 shopping hours are 4-8 p.m. Feb. 18-20 and 9 a.m.-noon Feb. 22. Donations of gently used or new dresses, shoes and jewelry are currently being accepted. Visit the website below for details.Prom Closet >