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"Ronda's Closet" Offers Free Prom Dresses

Reported: Feb. 19, 2014 6:24 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 19, 2014 6:31 PM EST
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (Kennie Bass) - Members of the Sissonville High School football team move hundreds of prom dresses into the Aldersgate United Methodist Church.

This is the ninth year that "Ronda's Closet" has offered absolutely free prom dresses to anyone who wants one, with no questions asked.

"We started as a community project just with my daughter," Julia Black, who founded "Ronda's Closet" said. "But it helped so many people so now every year, now it's turned into a real need."

Black started this venture in memory of her friend, Ronda Jones Howard, who died in 2004 from breast cancer. She was only 44. Now, Black acts as fairy godmother to young women who might not be able to afford the expenses of a prom.

"People donate dresses," Black said. "Nandel's in Eleanor, she gives me brand new dresses every year to start off my collection. And people, just individuals will donate dresses throughout the year. I bet we've got 400 dresses in there."

Black says she gets plenty of help. The church hosts the closet. Sissonville's football team moves the dresses and the racks, and Gardner's Dry Cleaners stores and cleans the gown free of charge.

"We're just honored that we can help her out a little bit, a couple of hours once a year to move the dresses and get them set up," Eddie Smolder, Sissonville football coach said..

"My wife when she was growing up she didn't get to go to her prom because they couldn't afford a gown," Rick Leach of Gardner's Dry Cleaners said. "And now that she's able to help she'll do anything she can."

Black says although she'd like for the dresses to be returned for a chance to be used again, it is not a requirement. She says the most important thing is for young women to be free of the pressure of paying for a dress so they can enjoy one of the biggest nights of their lives.

"It's like being a fairy godmother," Black said. "It's so, when they get their perfect dress and they're so excited. We just have to continue it."

"Ronda's Closet" open on Saturday, February 22 from 10 a.m. until noon at Aldersgate United Methodist Church at 6823 Sissonville Drive.

It will be open during those same hours on each Saturday during the prom season.



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