Prom closet gives girls a chance to dress up

Diane Potts of the Community Transitions Program shows one of the dresses donated to the Prom Closet, a partnership with South Kitsap Helpline. - Justine Frederiksen/Staff Photo
Diane Potts of the Community Transitions Program shows one of the dresses donated to the Prom Closet, a partnership with South Kitsap Helpline.
— image credit: Justine Frederiksen/Staff Photo

The arrival of some pretty dresses had an amazing effect on a small group of students recently.

“If we had known that this is what would happen if we gave them dresses to try on, we would have done it a long time ago,” said Laura Lane, one of the paraeducators with South Kitsap High School’s Community Transitions Program, which helps students with disabilities gain the skills they need to live more independently as adults.

Lane said she and her co-workers got tears in their eyes as they watched one girl, whom they described as so introverted that she is a selective mute, blossom as she tried on a dress and modeled it for the staff

“And then she wanted to try on another one,” Lane said, smiling.

The dozens of dresses — along with oodles of fancy shoes — are being collected at the small building just off the school campus that houses the CTP program as part of a new partnership with South Kitsap Helpline called Prom Closet.

Paraeducators Diane Potts and Kristi Balstad said the idea for the closet came to them during one of their shifts sorting clothes with their students for Vintage to Vogue, SK Helpline’s store.

Balstad said most of their students don’t have the luxury of owning or being able to buy formal clothes for dances, and in the past they took the girls to rent dresses from a local shop.

But that shop is no longer an option, she said, and the women brought their idea of collecting donated dresses for use by the students to Jennifer Hardison, the executive director of Helpline.

Hardison said she loved the idea and had thought about something similar for years, but “there just aren’t enough hours in the day” for her staff to accomplish everything they would like to.

“The teachers are really the ones who are making it happen,” Hardison said, explaining that the idea “just caught on like wildfire” and dresses were coming in every day.

“We’ve had some amazing things donated, along with shoes, jewelry, shawls,” she said. “And a couple of people said they wanted to sponsor a girl (for the dance).”

As of Monday, Potts said they had collected 80 dresses of all colors, sizes and for all ages.

“The response from the community has been overwhelming,” she said. “We have dresses for young, old and for all occasions, like a wedding dress, and dresses someone could wear to a funeral.”

Currently, the staff is creating a database to inventory each dress by size, style and color. For now, the database will help for Helpline’s fashion show benefitting Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in May that will feature the CTP students as models, but eventually the program hopes to have the dresses displayed online.

Once everything is up and running, the women hope to have people be able to peruse the dresses online, then make an appointment to try on their selection. To borrow the dress, the girl or woman would only need to make a donation to the SK Helpline food bank.

The women planned to have the program ready for fall formal, but might have the dresses ready for the high school’s prom May 31 — provided, of course, they can get them dry-cleaned.

“We are hoping that some people can donate the dry cleaning,” Balstad said, explaining that the program does not have the money to dry clean all 80 dresses. Help doing minor repairs on the dresses was offered by the school’s Family and Consumer Science program.

Potts said the dresses are not meant solely for low-income people, but anyone needing a dress is welcome to check their stock.

To donate a dress or schedule an appointment, call 876-4089.

If You Go

What: Vintage to Vogue fashion show and luncheon

When: Saturday, May 9 at 11:30 a.m.

Where: Adventure of Faith Church, 4705 Jackson Avenue

How much: Tickets are $15 and benefit Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital

Call 876-4077, or 871-1805 for tickets or information.

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