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For Good

Kenzie's CLOSET uses dresses to help girls shine

For some young women, affording a dress for prom night is a much bigger problem than finding a date.

Behind all the statistics generated by the current recession – rates on joblessness, bankruptcies, foreclosures – there are young people who look forward to those special “rite of passage” events like high school prom and, yet, cannot afford their cost.

Kenzie’s CLOSET
aims to provide young women with all they need to shine and sparkle on prom night. For seven years, this non-profit has provided donated dresses to girls in need across the region. A Feb. 1 Kick-Off will be the first of Kenzie’s CLOSET’s 15 shopping days during the year, when hundreds of volunteers will fit more than 550 girls with dresses, shoes and accessories.

Girls who have been referred to Kenzie’s CLOSET by teachers, principals and social service agencies get two hours with a personal shopper to select a dress, shoes, jewelry and a wrap. Seamstresses on site make all the alterations that day, and each girl leaves with a complete outfit, a photograph, a rose, a gift bag…“and a hug,” adds Joanne Maly, a media consultant and volunteer for Kenzie’s CLOSET. Maly started helping the non-profit with their media relationships but soon began volunteering, too. “You really get caught up in it; it’s such a neat experience and you see the impact of this experience on these girls’ lives.”

Founder Brynne Coletti started the non-profit when she realized that a girl at her daughter’s high school couldn’t afford a prom dress. Today, “it’s not uncommon that some of the girls we have helped in our earlier years are now back as volunteers helping other girls.” Dress drives and fund-raisers keep Kenzie’s CLOSET operating and expanding its reach, including shopping days for girls with special needs. And for years, Appearance Plus Cleaners has dry-cleaned and pressed every prom dress donated.  

Volunteers come away as enriched as the girls they help. “Collectively, we show our girls that no matter their age, occupation or education, a strong group of women working together can accomplish mighty things," says Coletti.

Do Good:

•    Donate: Your gently-used prom, bridesmaid or cocktail dress to a Kenzie’s CLOSET dress drive.

•    Support: Kenzie’s CLOSET with a monetary donation, which can be made on line, www.kenziescloset.org.

•    Volunteer: Join a group of women who get to help fit and accessorize girls on a special night.

By Becky Johnson
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