TWU Senior Serving Community through "Prom Closet"
“The whole idea growing up, because I was a late 90’s baby, everything in the 2000’s had that big prom moment in high school movies. Everyone that grew up with me and that are younger than me have that big idea for prom, and I didn't want anyone to go without having that big ‘aha’ moment.”
Mattie Cardin doesn’t want any woman to miss out on their dream prom. That’s why for each of the last three years, she has organized The Prom Closet at her home church, Englewood Church of God.
Cardin, a senior education major at TWU, approached the church leadership a few years ago after recognizing a need in their community.
“There’s a big need for women that can't go out and spend a couple hundred dollars on a dress that they're going to wear for a couple hours,” said Cardin, pictured right helping a guest. “There's a wonderful ministry here in Athens, but a lot of times people on (the other) side of the county, and the county surrounding that side, can't really get to Athens because they don't have the ability to, so I saw a need in the community and I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”
The Prom Closet provides one-on-one, boutique-style consulting for women in the community who cannot afford a dress or other prom services, all at no cost.
“Everything we have is absolutely free to women. Women in our church actually provide services for these girls. They come in and they have almost like a consultant, and we take them and go through all the different dresses. We have sizes 00 all the way to size 24, in every color, shape, size, material you can think of, and we make them feel as beautiful as they possibly can.”
“I want to provide the full experience you'd get if you went to a super nice formal boutique, where you had your own personal consultant, you got to try on dresses, see what fit, more of a one-on-one, personal connection, whenever you're getting a dress because if you don't feel comfortable walking into a ministry or to prom closet, you're not going to feel comfortable with the dress that you get.”
Now in its third year, the inventory has grown, despite COVID-19 all but cancelling last year’s services. The first year saw 80 dresses donated, and as of this year’s event, back on March 12 and 13, 185 dresses had been donated, 35 of those the week of the event.
“It has been an exponential growth this year. I gave my personal number out on our ad, and I've had probably 100 people call me this week just to ask if they're still doing it,” Cardin added the week prior to the event.
When the dust settled, more than 50 visitors attended the 2021 Prom Closet, with 37 dresses picked out. While the numbers are encouraging, for Cardin, it’s about the feeling these girls have at a pivotal time in their life.
“We try to boost their self-confidence because they're at an age where self-confidence is not at the highest point. And we just want to make them feel absolutely beautiful and their best version of themselves, even before prom, and comfortable in their dress so that way they can enjoy their night without worrying about the financial strains of prom.”
Cardin graduates in December, but doesn’t intend to stop any time soon. She hopes to land a teaching job, stay involved at TWU, and continue to develop her dream of providing this service to the women in her community.
“I want to keep this going as long as I can. We have some amazing women in the church, including my mother, who have really backed me on with this project. They've funded it, they've donated, and it's going to be an annual thing for us for as long as I can make it one.”