For the fifth year in a row, the Prom Closet at First Presbyterian Church is providing free ball gowns, formal dresses, tuxedos, shoes and accessories to local high school students who cannot afford them.

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For the fifth year in a row, the Prom Closet at First Presbyterian Church is providing free ball gowns, formal dresses, tuxedos, shoes and accessories to local high school students who cannot afford them.

Prom Closet continues effort to help low-income students

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Once again, two local women have dusted off their magic wands to open the Prom Closet at First Presbyterian Church.

In 2010, Georgia Mixon and Anne Etheredge, who are both members at First Presbyterian, recognized a need in some of the local high schools.

They had heard that many local teens wanted to attend their prom or spring dance but chose not to simply because they could not afford to buy a dress or suit.

That spring, they joined with United Community Ministries to organize a Prom Closet, a collection of donated ball gowns, formal dresses, tuxedos, shoes and accessories for women that are made available to high school students for free. For the fifth year in a row, the Prom Closet will once again be open to local students who qualify through their school guidance counselors.

“We have had great community support,” Mixon said. “The greater Rocky Mount community has been generous in donating items that make it possible for some young man or woman to feel appropriately dressed for their high school formal dance.”

The Presbyterian Women of First Presbyterian Church have been especially charitable in their support of this effort, donating time and energy as well as clothing.

“It is our mission to reach out to youth,” Mixon said, “and to find innovative ways to be relevant to the community.”

With the help of Chris Battle, the director of United Community Ministries, Prom Closet organizers created a way to identify the candidates who qualify as recipients of the free dresses and suits. UCM Case Manager Linda Brinson made contacts with personnel at the local high schools, who in turn offer invitations or vouchers to those students who exhibit true need and interest in the program.

Over the five years of the Prom Closet, many students from schools in the Nash-Rocky Mount and Edgecombe County systems have received donations.

At the UCM shelter and Bassett Center, Battle sees children who are in need each and every day.

“These teens have huge worries on their shoulders about having a place to sleep, food to eat and clothes to wear on a daily basis,” he said. “We don’t want their station in life to prevent them from having what their classmates who are more fortunate may have.”

Etheredge said the women strive to handle the process with “dignity and confidentiality.”

“Our hope is that (these children) feel they have gone shopping and bought a special gown,” she said. “It is our ministry to the community to let these young people know that there are Christians who care about them and want them to be part of this important rite of passage.”

Young people with a voucher can come to First Presbyterian Church to choose clothing from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. on Thursdays and from 10:30 a.m. until noon on Saturdays, except for the day before Easter.

For more information call the Bassett Center at 252-985-0078 or First Presbyterian Church at 252-446-9121.