COLUMBIA — Three years ago, Brooke Eaton's older sister taught her to begin taking over leadership for the Prom Closet, an annual prom dress charity event at Rock Bridge High School.
Now Eaton, one of the seven Rock Bridge student coordinators for Prom Closet and a senior at Rock Bridge High School, has helped organize her third and final Prom Closet.
What: Find prom dresses, shoes and accessories for little to no cost
Where: Rock Bridge High School North Commons
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Who: Any high school girl
How much: No donation necessary, but any amount is accepted
Donations go to: Rainbow House
This spring's Prom Closet will be open Saturday, and girls from any local high school can come pick out dresses and shoes without having to spend a lot of money.
Prom Closet started in 2008 as a way to help students cut the cost of the long-awaited senior prom while benefiting a local charity, Rainbow House. Four years later, it has the same goals but has grown immensely, Eaton said.
This year, the closet is offering the biggest selection of dresses, shoes and accessories it has ever had. There are about 500 dresses, ranging in size from one to 22. This is also the first year that organizers have sought donated accessories.
The dresses and shoes are free, but the Prom Closet accepts any donations that those who visit think are appropriate. All money raised goes straight to Rainbow House, which serves as a child advocacy center.
To further cut prom costs, there will be an auction with gift certificates for local salons and restaurants.
This is the first year that MU students Kelsey Lammy, junior, and Laura Rizzo, senior, have worked with the students at Rock Bridge through Lammy's program ROSE (Raising Our Self Esteem) Garden. They explained that ROSE Garden is basically like the MU side of Prom Closet.
"Kelsey and I were really excited to be able to help them out and do whatever we could to make this a joint project," Rizzo said. "Hopefully our contributions will make it even more successful, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue that in the future. We’re hoping that this will be a yearly thing."
Eaton said the only real cost the Prom Closet incurs is renting racks for the dresses each year, and the coordinators hold bake sales to raise money for the expense. The dresses and shoes that aren't chosen are stored in different coordinators' houses each year.
"It’s a really good cause, and it’s not just for girls who can’t afford it," Eaton said, adding that it is open to all local high school students, not just those who go to Rock Bridge. "Anyone can come because prom gets really expensive, so it’s completely worth all of the time and effort we’ve put into it this year."
Lammy said they have spoken to many different organizations and individuals to ask for dresses, but they have received the most support from sororities. Since there are so many Greek socials each year and many of the women don't want to wear the same dress multiple times, there are a lot of dresses left over to donate, Lammy said.
"It was really great to see they were interested in helping," Lammy said. "That blew me away. These women recognized the need when we were talking about some women not being able to afford going to prom, and they were eager to help."