Feel-Good Friday: Communities and Organizations Help Every Girl Feel Like 'The Belle of the Ball' for Prom

A young lady weighs her dress choices. Credit: Tiana's Closet Facebook page, used with permission
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This week’s Feel-Good Friday is sort of a Flashback Friday for me. Amazingly enough, it is “prom season,” where young ladies start to prepare for this distinctive rite of passage. Some girls get a Sweet 16; if you are Hispanic, you get a Quinceañera. The rest of us get to go to prom.


I remember distinctly hanging out at the mall with my group of friends, and looking over prom dresses. I had fun with them, but I knew my family could never afford those price tags. We were by no means poor, but we weren’t flush either, and my mother was tight with the pocketbook. As an adult, I totally understand why, but as a kid you just learn to accept that it’s just the way it is.

However, my sister Adrienne was an incredible seamstress who could make dresses without a pattern—that’s how good she was. So, I asked if she would make me a prom dress, and she gladly agreed. Since my sister was making it, my mother somehow wasn’t stressed about the fabric and materials cost or the accessories—which all combined, was still infinitely less than something off the rack. She gladly forked over the funds, and Adrienne and I went to whatever fabric store existed at that time and picked out what we needed.

I am in no way a girly-girl. I’m not a tomboy either, but I am someone who puts practicality and comfort over fashion any day of the week. My favorite things are hoodies, and given my druthers, that, a pair of loose pants, and my boots would be my permanent uniform. However, I can floss with the best of them, and thanks to Adrienne, and my other sister June, who did my makeup, I was able to pull it off at minimal cost. I felt like a princess, but the best part was the shock, oohs, and ahhs of people who were used to seeing plain Jennifer wandering the halls, and instead were presented with a fancy lady of great wealth and importance. At least, that’s how it felt. The expression about clothes making the man (and woman) fits here.

Jennifer at Her Prom (1983). Credit: Jennifer Oliver O’Connell, used with permission.

I’ll never forget that moment, which is why the experience is so pivotal. My family came together to help me have this occasion, which is now a very fond memory. This month, charities and communities are doing the same for young girls across the country, and it’s a wonderful thing.

In South Carolina, Dr. Andrea Hampton-Mills runs an organization called Tiana’s Prom Closet for the young girls in her Ladson community and the surrounding areas.

 A free closet is helping young girls in the community find their inner and outer beauty ahead of this year’s prom season.

Tiana’s Closet started in 2018 and creates a shopping experience for girls who may not have the opportunity to get the dress of their dreams.

The closet is made possible by donations of dresses, shoes, jewelry and purses.

Director of Tiana’s Closet Andrea Hampton-Mills says every girl deserves a night to remember, and they hope that shopping at Tiana’s Closet can give them that experience.

Dr. Hampton-Mills’ 2023 debut was a wonderful success, and they are still taking appointments.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Sandy Lathery, an organizer for Giving, Loving, and Heartfelt hosted an event for girls to choose their prom and/or graduation dress along with all the accessories, at no cost to them.


Lathery hopes to turn this into a non-profit and make this event something that she can host every year. She had this to say, WLKY reported:

Words can’t express the feeling to see these girls walk in here and be able to give something that’s been given to me, to be able to give something else out to them. So, it’s very, very heartfelt. I just can’t even express it, because it’s a beautiful thing.


In its second year, Give Grace Boutique collects dresses from the New Jersey community. Apparently, the response has been so overwhelming this year that Give Grace was able to have two locations open. The organization received over 1,000 dresses, along with the accessories to complete them, so they hope to give them all away by the time prom rolls around.



Even communities around Los Angeles and Atlanta, in their entertainery-way, come together for girls from low-income familes who cannot afford a prom dress experience. These ladies are recommended by school counselors to be a part of TLC’s Say YES to the Prom. In its 11th year, the production is sponsored by Macy’s and Men’s Warehouse.


SAY YES TO THE PROM is back in partnership with Macy’s and Men’s Warehouse! This year, the educational and charitable initiative will take place in Atlanta, Georgia in February and Los Angeles, California in March to help over 1,000 students find their perfect prom looks.

Durham and employee volunteers from Warner Bros. Discovery, Macy’s, and DIRECTV will host a full day of shopping for students. They’ll have access to over 1,000 donated dresses, shoes, and accessories as well as fittings and tuxedo rentals from Men’s Warehouse and hair and makeup consultations by CNN stylists. In addition, Warner Bros. Discovery will participate in dress and suit drives to donate to Becca’s Closet.


Becca’s Closet is an organization out of Pompano Beach, Florida, which was started when its founder Rebecca launched a dress drive in her freshman year of high school to provide prom dresses and accessories to her high school. “Becca” singlehandedly collected and donated over 250 formal dresses for the girls who could not afford to purchase a dress. Young girls across South Florida were able to attend their high school proms in style, thanks to this bright, compassionate young woman. Tragically, in 2003, Becca died in an automobile accident, and her family continues the non-profit in her memory.

So, why is this important? We are seeing a unprecedented attacks on women and womanhood. These rites of passage, like the prom, are places where women not only build memories, but where our sense of self and who we are as women are established and allowed to blossom. I’ll never forget that seed of empowerment I experienced all dressed up for my senior prom, and I have been able to tap into and build on it over the last 40 years. I am grateful for a family that banded together to afford it for me.

So, I am thankful that organizations and people like Becca, Sandy Lathey, Dr. Andrea Hampton-Mills, and others exist to do the same. Offering resources and assistance so that young women can continue to find their foundation and place in themselves, and in the world.



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