By Pam Graber
Outreach ideas come in many ways, but by far the most successful come when God does the nudging. West Clinton’s “Prom Trend: Beauty Comes from the Heart” event is the result of one such nudge.
“If someone had told me five years ago that I would be coordinating a prom dress event, I would have told them they were crazy,” said Lori King. “But in 2013, God had another plan. One night He whispered to me to do an event on beauty for young ladies. My reaction was, ‘What? Me, God?! I have three sons and never had to buy things for a daughter! What do I know about these things?”
Believing that she needed to listen when God whispers ideas to her, Lori stepped out in faith and put together the first prom dress event in less than a month. The first year she started with fewer than 80 dresses, and only 15 girls showed up for the one-night event, taking 12 dresses. “I said if only one girl showed up and took a dress that it would be worth it,” Lori said. The second year jewelry, shoes, wraps and purses were added to the event, and the young ladies came from further away. A total of 32 young ladies attended with 22 dresses taken, more than doubling the attendance from the first year and nearly doubling the number of dresses. In 2015, the third year of the event, word really began to spread through newspaper and radio interviews and the addition of social media. Schools in the four-county area put it on their morning announcements. A total of 80 young ladies viewed dresses, taking a total of 93 dresses in 2015. So far in 2016, 104 young ladies have looked at the dresses, and Lori will be opening up again in early April.
In addition to opening up her “dress boutique” for prom, Lori has also opened up to girls who are looking for homecoming dance dresses. She collects dresses throughout the year, going to Goodwill, garage sales and sometimes peoples’ homes. This year she started with more than 500 dresses to choose from in all sizes. “Every girl deserves to look beautiful for her prom!” Lori often says.
Dresses are “sold” on a donation-only basis. “Last year a young woman called me because of seeing a newspaper article in her hometown paper and asked about the event. She and two other friends were brought to the event by her grandmother. All three young ladies found beautiful dresses, and the grandmother came to me with tears in her eyes saying that she was so thankful for this event so that these young ladies who do not have the money to go buy new dresses can go to the prom in style,” Lori said. “I got a call from the young lady the next morning saying, ‘We are coming back because my mom wants to give some money for the dress I picked out yesterday.’ I told her that she did not need to drive back over 30 miles to do this – that all the items are free if you cannot donate. The grandmother, mother and daughter all came back to give a donation, and the girl found a short dress for graduation also that day!”
Any donations given have gone to charities. The first three years The Dow Family Children’s Home in Kenya benefitted from the dress donations. Lori picked them because her son, Nic King, worked there during part of his YES experience with Eastern Mennonite Missions. This year the money was split between Children’s Lantern (helping survivors of human trafficking in NWO) in Defiance, Ohio, and the international mission Growing Hope in Haiti.
“I feel that those who have worked and experienced the events have seen how God can work through being blessed by a dress,” Lori stated. “It’s the smiles of the young ladies, parents, grandparents, boyfriends and friends. It’s taking time to listen to all those who come because they all have a story.”