Making dresses new again
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 6, 2006 1:46 PM
While shopping for this year's prom dress, 17-year-old Jamie Mills said she realized she had several at home she couldn't use.
And what about those girls who might dream about going to the prom, but couldn't afford the expense, she thought.
So, the Rosewood High School senior began to investigate ways to match the two. Finding nothing short of fundraisers or services that collected dresses to resell them, she decided to create her own.
Jamie Mills, left and Chelsey Willoughby, both Rosewood High School seniors, pose with prom dresses donated for distribution.
Operation Prom Dress actually started in November. Jamie donated the first three dresses. Family friend Lisa Cantrell also got on board, helping decorate 10 large plastic water bottles with miniature versions of prom dresses to publicize the project. The bottles also serve as a way to collect monetary donations.
Rosewood Principal David Lewis supported the idea by allowing Jamie access to a storage room that wasn't being used near the shop class. He said he couldn't take credit for anything other than being a trouble-shooter.
"Jamie is one of those people that if she has a problem, she knows two or three solutions. She doesn't come to you to solve it; she just comes for guidance to pick the right one," he said.
"I made contact with the other schools. She met with each of the other high school principals on her own."
The immediate response was one of excitement, he said, with each school interested in participating. Jamie's digital media class also created a promotional tape for each school to show on their morning Channel One newscasts.
So far, word of mouth has generated good response. Jamie said a woman she didn't even know called and donated five dresses and shoes.
Friend and classmate Chelsey Willoughby also donated five dresses.
"Jamie asked me one day just to help out. I used to be in pageants and had some left over that I don't use," she said.
To date, about 35 dresses have been collected, as well as accessories. Jamie said she hopes that when it's time for distribution days, customers can put together an entire outfit - dress, shoes, jewelry, hangbag, etc.
The plan is to have two Saturdays for girls to shop and try on items they might use for this spring's prom. With the schools' calendar change this year, spring break falls earlier than usual. As a result, Rosewood's prom will be April 1; other high schools' proms will be later.
The dilemma will allow a trial run, though, Lewis said. The first distribution date, for Rosewood students only, will be March 18. April 29 will be the date for students at other area high schools.
Packets of information have been dropped off at each of the public high schools, and Jamie said she is hopeful that there will be a variety of sizes available. The selection will depend on how much is donated, she said.
"We'll let them come in and shop, pick out what they want, try it on, take it home that day and return it later," she said. "They have to give them back because otherwise, all they're going to do when they get through is hang them up in their closet."
It is such entrepreneurial thinking that impressed Lewis.
"One of the things that Jamie has done a good job with, this is a project that can be carried on from year to year to year," he said. "Jamie's also tried to collect the monetary donations so that we can leave something behind. I can see it blossoming so that next year there's some starter money."
The principal said he also found it interesting that a student promoted an idea that wasn't prompted by a service requirement or to meet some sort of duty.
"She had a genuine, heartfelt desire to do something to help people," he said.
"People thought it was a Girl Scout award or something. I told them, no, I am just doing this," she said.
She did it, she said, because prom night is one that girls dream of ever since they are little.
"To actually be able to go as a junior or a senior, every girl should have the opportunity to experience that rite of passage," she said.
"It's an experience ... one of those nights you always remember," Lewis added. "To think that a dress is going to keep you from having an experience like that is the whole reason behind what they're doing."
Chelsey said the idea is that "you help people who are less fortunate and can't really go out and do this. But you can still experience what everybody else does."
Donations are being sought from the community and businesses can also request a decorated water bottle to advertise the project, Jamie said. Items can be dropped off at Rosewood High during school hours, or by calling 222-5997.
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