PELL CITY -- Fifty-one young ladies gathered at Cropwell Baptist Church on Saturday morning for the annual Prom Paloosa, picking out their prom dresses, at no cost, thanks to YWCA Central Alabama and its volunteers.
“I think it’s wonderful that there is a ministry like this to help people,” said April Smith, whose 17-year-old daughter Ivalee walked away with the prom dress of her dreams.
The dress was a dark gray gown with beading that resembled shooting stars.
“I felt like I was wearing the night sky,” Ivalee said. “It looks like a dress for a goddess straight out of mythology. I felt absolutely beautiful.”
Last year, the YWCA Central Alabama handed out 41 prom dresses to local St. Clair County high school students.
“We want to make sure that every girl has a chance to enjoy her prom,”“We want to make sure that every girl has a chance to enjoy her prom,” said Vernetta Bowman, rural domestic violence services coordinator for the YWCA. “It’s such an exciting time for high school students, and we want the girls to be able to enjoy every minute.”
Girls receiving dresses were referred by their high school guidance counselors.
The young girls selected the gown of their choice from a variety of sizes and colors. Accessories such as jewelry and shoes were also available.
Smith will never forget her daughter’s reaction Saturday.
“I pulled it (the prom dress) off the rack, and her eyes just lit up,” Smith said. “I said, ‘If it fits, that’s the one.’”
And it fit.
Ivalee, who is a senior at Bible Methodist Christian School in Pell City, plans to attend UAB next year. She wants to become a pathologist.
“College is expensive, even with scholarships,” Smith said. “All of our finances are geared toward that, so this is a huge help.”
The YWCA operates My Sister’s Closet, which provides free clothing to clients and a high-quality, low-cost shopping option for the community, in downtown Birmingham.
When the staff realized the high cost of prom dresses made it impossible for some girls to attend their prom, the idea for Prom Palooza was born.
The YWCA has had a presence in St. Clair County since 2009, when it opened Our Place, an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims and their children. Each year, the Purse & Passion St. Clair County Luncheon raises funding for the emergency shelter. Members of the luncheon’s Steering Committee also help organize the Prom Palooza event.
“These ladies make a tremendous difference in our community, and we are so grateful for all they do,” Bowman said. “They are truly dedicated to the women and children we serve and work so hard to meet every need, whether it’s a prom dress, furniture or household items.”
YWCA Central Alabama is a United Way agency. For more information about YWCA Central Alabama, go to www.ywcabham.org.