Pink, blue, purple, floor-length and covered in sequins, the dresses are waiting for wearers.
The Cobb branch of the national nonprofit Becca’s Closet is in full gear, matching prom dresses for girls who cannot afford them before this season’s dances begin in early March.
“To me, this is a rite of passage for every girl to have the opportunity to go to a prom,” said Renae Gunter, who started the Cobb chapter five years ago.
Gunter is a sign language interpreter at Kennesaw Mountain High School, and coordinates the dropping-off and trying-on of thousands of formal dresses each year.
The least-expensive prom dresses on the market start at about $400, Gunter said, a price many families cannot afford.
So five years ago, she partnered with fellow Kennesaw Mountain High School teacher Krista Harris to start a chapter at her school.
On Saturday afternoon, Gunter stood among a dozen Kennesaw Mountain High School girls, dressed in matching neon green T-shirts, rifling through more than 20 stacks of dresses, arranged by size across the length of the room.
Tierra Lewis, a junior at McEachern High School in Powder Springs, was trying on dresses, as a group of girls waited outside the dressing room.
Lewis finally emerged with a red, floor-length halter top dress, decorated with a sequined bodice. She loved it.
While her prom isn’t until March 22, Lewis said it was a relief to get the dress. Next on her list; finding a date and matching shoes.
Becca’s Closet has one requirement for girls accepting dresses. The girls must be searching for a dress for a school-related function, which includes prom, homecoming or military balls, Gunter said.
Gunter co-manages the organization for the entire Atlanta region, one of the largest networks of Becca’s Closet in the country, alongside Cindy Meyers, and is constantly fielding emails from girls interested in getting dresses or donating dresses.
Once the girls contact Gunter, she said she sets them up with a local chapter where they can make an appointment to shop for a dress.
Almost every weekend, the Whitlock Avenue location is run by a different chapter of girls. This week it was Kennesaw Mountain High School’s chapter, next will be McEachern’s chapter, Gunter said.
Abby Zajac, a junior at Kennesaw Mountain and the vice president of her school’s chapter said she got involved with the organization to make friends and fulfill community service requirements.
Three years later, Zajac can’t imagine a prom season without Becca’s Closet.
She enjoys helping her peers pick out their perfect prom outfits, and having them say “Yes to the dress.”
When a girl walks in to the Whitlock Avenue location, she is greeted with at least two personal shoppers, who help her narrow down her dream dress. Short? Long? Patterned?
Then, the group walks through the rows of dresses until the dress seeker picks out three. As she tries them on, Zajac said, her shoppers continue to pull dresses they think the dress-seeker might like until a match is made.
More than 6 girls had found their dresses Saturday morning, Gunter said, and the group was gearing up for a month of back-to-back appointments as prom season begun.
The extra hours of fundraising and the weekends spent organizing dresses were worth it, Zajac said, as she is passionate about the organization’s cause.
Becca’s Closet is a national nonprofit, started by Florida resident Rebecca Kirtman, who died in a car accident in 2003, Gunter said.
“This is a way to carry on her legacy,” Gunter said.
There are roughly 90 chapters across the country, about nine of them are in Georgia, she added.
Those interested in donating or receiving gently-used dresses should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.