FLETCHER — It’s a rite of passage with a hefty price tag, but one local church is trying to ease that burden one dress at a time.
The Fletcher United Methodist Church is coordinating its first-ever “Hope Closet” with more than 100 dresses — and many more coming — to help local teens connect with a special dress for their prom at no cost.
The church, located at 205 Walnut Street in Fletcher, will open its doors to area teens on the search for a perfect prom dress — for free — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 16.
Kelly Cook, a mother to three daughters, presented the idea to the church several weeks ago.
“I have three daughters, and they are a year a part, so I went through a lot of dresses and done all the dress shopping and thought we could give dresses away instead,” Cook shared. “The idea was there and it just evolved. Everyone at this church just jumped in on it.”
According to a 2015 survey by Visa credit card, the average cost of a high school prom was $919 for the night.
There is no cost for the program which serves as part of the church’s ministry. Cook said she hopes the teens will pay the good deed forward and donate their dress or other items back to the program. The program is open to any students who plan on attending prom this year from any school district.
Pastor Cindee Johnson said, “We don’t see this as something Fletcher UMC is doing to the community or for the community. We see this as a way to bring the community together. We are talking, Sidney, Troy, Piqua, Miami East, Graham, Urbana, Fairlawn, Riverside, just where there is a need then we want to meet that. It’s a way to bring the community together.”
Cook said volunteers will also be on hand to help show girls how to do their own simple hair styles and make-up to get prepped for their prom. Cook said donations included more than a hundred dresses, but also brand new make-up and other items, which have been a blessing to the Hope Closet.
“Our mission as a church is to just be a focal point in the community for any need we can help meet and this is an idea God laid on Kelly’s heart and we are just so excited she brought that to us,” Pastor Johnson said. “We want people to be able to come here and have this day of, yes, shopping and having fun, but also feeling welcome and cared for. That’s so important to us that these girls and guys feel cared for.”
On Saturday, a group of volunteers were sorting shoes, assembling racks for the dresses and placing mirrors in classrooms to prepare for next weekend’s event.
Sunday School classrooms will serve as fitting rooms and each participant will have their own “personal shopper” to assist them as they search for that special gown for the day. Cook said each participant can have their photo taken as a keepsake for the day.
All the dresses have been pressed and dry cleaned. Minor alterations can be made during the event as well, Cook said.
Bags, shoes and other accessories are also available. Ties and a limited number of men’s suits and shoes are also part of the Hope Closet’s selection.
For more information, including photos of some of the dresses available, “Like” the “Hope Closet” page on Facebook.