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Alysha Bratcher poses with a donated dress. (Staff Photo by Kati Moody)
 
By Kati Moody
News Editor

That dress collecting dust in the back of the closet might be just taking up space. But the leaders at Project Faith Formals want to collect as many formal dresses and provide them to other women in need.

The idea behind Project Faith Formals is that no girl or woman should be stopped from attending a formal event, like a prom or even a wedding, because they don’t have an appropriate dress.

The effort held its first dress drive and fitting event last year with overwhelming response from the community. They have now acquired more than 400 dresses for girls and women to shop through and try on.

They will hold their second annual fit event Saturday, March 3, just in time for high school girls to find the perfect prom dress.

Last year, when the event started, Alysha Bratcher, Aimee Miller and Shanell Nations got information to young women through Facebook and local media. They said after people found out they were there, there was a rush of donations.

“We’ve had a really, really, good response from the community,” Bratcher said. “Especially for donations.”

They have a room for girls to try on and shop for dresses at First Baptist Church located on the corner of Avenue C and Houston Street. The group had to move rooms because the previous one had become too small.

“We’re in a much better room,” Bratcher said. “We quickly outgrew the one we were in last year.”

The project has provided dresses for girls attending prom, the Miss Caprock pageant at South Plains College and the Night to Shine Prom for the special Olympics. They also have the ability to provide wedding and bride’s maid dresses.

They provide not only dresses for young women, but other accessories associated with formal events, such as jewelry, shoes, beaded bags and satin sashes.

They have received dresses and other donations from people across the state.

“We get them from everywhere,” Bratcher said. “We’ve had dresses mailed in, dresses from girls locally, just kind of all over.”

Bratcher and Miller said they have also made multiple trips to pick up dresses from women wanting to donate their old prom or formal dresses.

This year, the group plans to hold an after-prom dress drive for girls to donate their dresses once the event is over.

“We’ll set up and after everyone is done, if they want to clean it out, they can bring it up here and drop it off,” Bratcher said. “We’ll mend them, clean them, and get them ready to go.”

Miller said she does all the seamstress work on the dresses donated. She has added personalized embroidery to dresses, beading and repairs tears and slits.

“Most of it’s just putting in hanging straps or making the hooks sturdier, so they’re not loose,” Miller said. “Some of it’s beading, altering stuff, too.”

The girls have added sequence embroidery to several dresses that may have been cut too low or to cover up any spot that didn’t look right.

“Adds some sparkle to the dress and makes it more modest,” Bratcher said.

The project is still struggling to reach its targeted audience, though, and hopes to get the word out to high school girls about what they provide.

“We’re still really fighting to figure out the best route to get to those girls,” Bratcher said.

Miller said they have dropped off flyers at administration offices at different school campuses to get the word out, but can’t ensure the information is getting passed along to the girls who need it.

“A lot of girls say they never knew about it,” Miller said. “That’s been our biggest hurdle.”

Bratcher said the main way the project has been able to target girls in need is through Facebook and other social media sites.

The group has helped girls in different needing circumstances, from not being able to afford a dress or having to use money saved for a dress on an emergency situation.

They said that even if a girl’s situation doesn’t fit into the “qualifications” outlined by the project, doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to help.

Some of the described qualifications for girls to receive a donated dress include: living in a single parent home, living with other relatives or guardians, special needs, military, migrant, low income, and living in foster care.

They also have helped girls from across the South Plains, including Levelland, Shallowater, Lubbock, Morton, Brownfield and other towns.

Bratcher said just because a town isn’t on their list of cities served doesn’t mean they won’t help.

Project Faith Formals doesn’t have set hours, so if a girl wants to shop or try on dresses, they need to set up an appointment with either Bratcher, Miller or Nations.

They can be contacted through Facebook at Project Faith Formals, by e-mail at Projectfaithformals@gmail.com or by cell phone.

Bratcher can be reached by calling (806) 559-0772; Miller can be contacted by calling (806) 781-8772, and Shannell Nations can be reached by calling (806) 928-7102.


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