Last April, 60 more dresses twirled, 60 more high-heels clicked, and 60 more smiles lit up the room at the Eagle Butte Prom because of efforts by the Augustana Women’s Association (AWA). But so far this year, only six dresses have been donated.
This spring, AWA hopes to repeat last year’s successful dress donation drive for the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s (CRYP)“Passion for Fashion” event. The project helps high school girls that might otherwise not have enough money to buy the necessities for prom can attend the event for free and receive all the essentials to dress up for the classic tradition.
AWA has encouraged Augustana students throughout the month of February to drop dresses off at the Campus Safety desk. However, dress donations still are welcomed.
Co-president of AWA, Mallory Schulte, acknowledged that there have been a few challenges to this year’s drive.
Because there has been less faculty response so far and because Augustana students already donated their dresses last year, it makes sense that this year the drive has received less dresses.
However, Schulte states that last minute dresses donations are popular.
“Last year we went weeks without any dresses. We thought that it wasn’t going to work, but all of a sudden we needed to empty the tub every day,” Schulte said. “We just seemed to get all the dresses at the end.”
To inform students, AWA used Facebook, emails, posters, and word of mouth.
“I just think it’s a great opportunity for myself and others to give back,” said junior and AWA member Anna Skov. “I love dressing up; the opportunity for somebody else to get dressed up makes me very excited.”
“Passion for Fashion” is one of the events CRYP holds every year. The CRYP assists 359 families in one of the nation’s fifth poorest counties. The area around the Cheyenne River claims an unemployment rate around 75 percent, according to the CRYP. This organization runs on 90 percent donations. Augustana is one of several organizations to donate the dresses needed to sponsor this event.
“Our entire organization is built on the spirit of volunteerism, the generosity of people who just care and want to make a difference,” CRYP executive director Julie Garreau said.
After all the dresses from Augustana have been collected, members of the AWA drive five hours to Eagle Butte to hand over the dresses as well as help out with the big event. Karla Abbott, a nursing instructor at Augustana, helps coordinate the trip and her father allows students to stay at his house.
Since 2001, “Passion for Fashion” has been an opportunity for high school girls to bond with each other, build self-esteem and learn about leadership. The day begins with a luncheon including a speaker. At this year’s luncheon, Lise Balk King, a media and communications expert, is speaking about defining goals and working towards them. In the afternoon, girls get to choose their dresses, model their new clothes and sing karaoke.
“It’s a beautiful thing to watch the young ladies transform as they choose their dresses, their shoes, the jewelry,” Garreau said. “Their confidence builds and when they walk down that runway you can see they’ve gained strength.”
Last year, Schulte had the opportunity to attend the event, and she learned some important lessons.
“You understand the impact of something so small,” Schulte said. “This is literally a clump of fabric that serves no use for me anymore, but the idea [of] it can bring so much joy. Often times we think to do service you need to do some feat, but really you can just donate your prom dress.”