The auxiliary education building of a church isn’t where most young women go shopping for a prom dress, but dozens were willing to set convention aside April 17 to find a ball gown at an eye-popping price—$10.
Most of the fashionable dresses Against All Odds Youth Connection offered at Rainbow Park Baptist Church on Columbia Drive in Decatur were brand new—donations from local bridal and formalwear shops. Others were gowns donated by individuals who had worn them only once and would rather have the closet space than a dress they were unlikely to need again.
“One of my co-workers gave me her bridesmaid dress,” said Curtonia Price, Against All Odds’ scholarship/sponsor coordinator, who was busy Saturday helping young ladies and their mothers sort through racks of dresses, organized by size. “We called the local bridal shops and got lots of donations. We were hoping to get a wide variety of sizes so we wouldn’t have to turn anyone away.”
Price said she was sorry earlier that day to have been unable to help a young lady who had come there from another county, but couldn’t find a dress large enough. A young woman who said she normally wears a size 4 was leaving empty handed. “Try a 6 or an 8,” Price suggested. “Formal clothes often run a little small. You can cut the dress down if it’s too long. After all, you’re just spending $10.”
About two hours after the makeshift dress shop opened for business, Price estimated that she had helped approximately 100 prom-goers and a steady stream moved in and out of the open area where dozens of dresses in a wide range of styles, sizes and colors still awaited buyers. Classrooms around the perimeter of the second-floor space were used as dressing rooms.
Price said this is the first year the organization, whose goal is described in its brochure as “to provide exciting and rewarding opportunities to enhance self-esteem, personal development, education enrichment, social and cultural enrichment,” has offered the prom dress program.
“We felt this was a way we could serve young ladies who want to look their best, but money might be an issue. We wanted to offer prom dresses at a price that just covered our expenses such as the cost of transporting the clothes,” Price said. “We had a tough time finding a place. Everybody wanted to charge us for the space and even for parking. We’re a non-profit. We don’t have any money. We were fortunate that the church let us use this space. They were planning to have a health fair here today, but when that changed, they agreed to let us use the space for free.”
Although, the organization has youth members with whom it works on a regular basis, the dresses were available to anyone.
“You don’t have to be part of our program, and you don’t have to tell us anything about your personal situation,” Price said, explaining there was no family income requirement to purchase the $10 dresses. “Many families that haven’t hit rock bottom still aren’t able to spend $150, $200 for a dress that will only be worn once. These are hard times. If we can help kids, if we can help families, we want to do it.”