Sisters Helping Sisters in Need donates prom dresses, gowns for all occasions
Teens in Alachua County will have the opportunity to look their best on prom night with the help of gowns donated by Sisters Helping in Needs(SHSIN).
The Gainesville-based nonprofit donated more than 400 gowns to Alachua County Public Schools' Partners in Education program. The gowns will be available for Santa Fe High School and Eastside High School students to choose from to wear to their proms this year.
Vivian Haynes, Ph.D., founder of SHSIN., said her organization partners with Becca’s Closet to receive the prom dresses.
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The family of Rebecca Kirtman created Becca’s Closet in honor of her selflessness to provide prom dresses to those who can not afford them. Kirtman, 16, died in a car accident in August 2003.
The idea for Becca’s Closet was formed when Kirtman was a freshman at Nova High School in Davie in Broward County, where she launched a dress drive to provide prom dresses and accessories to high school girls who could not afford to purchase them, according to BeccasCloset.org.
Haynes, a retired educator, said her organization was founded in 2007 and she began her partnership with Becca’s Closet in 2019.
“This program is helpful for parents who may be struggling to go out and buy a gown,” Haynes said. “With the help of Becca’s Closet, they can get a brand new gown.”
Kelley Kostamo, a volunteer department supervisor for ACPS School Volunteers and Partners in Education, said the prom dress giveaway for students is a pilot program.
“Every time an opportunity pops up, we say yes,” Kostamo said. “If it works, we hope to expand it.”
On March 21, two volunteers from SHSIN, Rhetta Reilly Cheatham and Elizabeth Turner, worked alongside Haynes, Kostamo and Lynn Black-Murphy, business partner specialist with Volunteers and Partners in Education, to organize the shipping of the dresses from Haynes' home in northeast Gainesville.
Kostamo, who has been working for ACPS for over 25 years, said she has worked with Haynes for several years and remembers when Haynes and SHSIN donated coats to needy students several years ago.
“Some of our students are not able to go to those places to get dresses,” Kostamo said. “This is an opportunity for girls to get a chance to wear a dress for prom.”
Kostamo shared how high school seniors face expenses during the prom season.
“People look forward to it but might not have the ability to pay,” Kostamo said. “They have to worry about the cost of makeup, dinner, tickets and might not be able to mitigate all of the costs. We decided that if we can make it more affordable, we should do what we can. This helps to create something memorable for them.”
Terry Wright, a friend of Haynes, said he appreciates her effort in helping his daughter and her best friend to find a prom dress last year.
Wright, a Palatka native, said he has known Haynes for about three years and that she has impacted his life.
Wright said he remodel her bathroom to make it more wheelchair accessible and values their friendship. Haynes, 65, is a double amputee from the knee up on both of her legs
“The opportunity was astounding,” Wright said. “I told my daughter that before she does this, come look at the dresses. I believe in options. She had more money to do other stuff with it.”
Wright said he admires Haynes' giving spirit.
“She is such an inspiration,” Wright said. “She works towards the positive and keeps it moving. Some people look for faults, she looks at possibilities. She does a lot for the community. Nothing slows her down. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her.”
This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Prom dresses, gowns donated by Sisters Helping Sisters in Need in G'ville