‘Closet’ of dreams opens possibilities for local girls


Janet Whisenhunt (left) and Gayla Ratzlaff display one of the prom dresses that will be available at the first Cinderella?s Closet event March 9 at the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church. The goal of organizers is to give each girl at Hillsboro High School a chance to wear the dress of her dreams to this year?s prom in April. Malinda Just / Free Press.

Although spring may seem like a far-away dream, for many high school girls, it?s time to start thinking about the glitz and glamour of prom night.

For parents, it may seem like time to start saving for the financial commitments that accompany prom?the dress, the accessories, the perfect up-do.

But this year, a group of women from Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church have a solution to curb the expense of prom night.

Cinderella?s Closet.

You know the story?a young house servant is transformed for an evening by her fairy godmother?a sparkly ball gown right down to the glass slipper on her foot.

And although the dresses won?t turn to rags at the stroke of midnight, the organizers of Cinderella?s Closet want girls to feel like princesses.

?Our thought is everybody deserves to be a princess,? said Gayla Ratzlaff, a member of the organizing committee.

The group is collecting gently used dresses for Hillsboro High School girls to select from and wear to prom April 19.

?Right now we?re just thinking we?re targeting Hillsboro, but if we get more dresses, then we?ll let area towns and schools know that we?re doing it and they can come in also,? Ratzlaff said. ?But that?s going to depend on how many dresses we get.?

People are invited to make dress donations by Feb. 29 at the church office, located at 300 Prairie Pointe.

?It?s just an opportunity to share what you have with other people,? Ratzlaff said.

There are no style limitations.

?There are people who might come in and see a dress that?s a little bit different than everyone else?s and go, ?That?s mine, that?s the dress for me,?? Ratzlaff said. ?I guess if that?s the case, we may just put (an old or unusual style) out there. Somebody may pick it.?

Currently there are four dresses donated for the March 9 ?shopping? event. High school girls are invited to HMBC from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. to browse and try on dresses and enjoy refreshments.

?We want it to be fun,? Ratzlaff said. ?I know girls will probably come in with their friends, but their mothers are more than welcome to come in to help them look for their dress. I see that as kind of a bonding experience between a daughter and mother.?

The dresses will be free, although girls are welcome to bring a dress to swap or money to make a donation.

?We?re not really expecting money, and we?re not really expecting dresses to swap,? Ratzlaff said. ?We just want (the options) to be available for girls who (want to).?

Every Hillsboro high school girl is welcome to attend.

?Anybody who walks in, no one will ask them any questions,? Ratz?laff said. ?It?s just whoever wants to come in.?

There were three main reasons why Ratzlaff wanted to help organize the event.

First, she said, she had read about a similar event held in Wichita.

?I thought that was a pretty neat idea,? she said.

Second, she wanted something useful to do with her own daughter?s used dresses.

?I have three of my daughter?s prom dresses hanging in her closet, and I?m going, ?What am I ever going to do with these??? Ratzlaff said.

Finally, the Harvesters Sunday school class, of which she is a part, was looking for ideas for serving the community.

?Our class hasstarted to talk about some service projects we could do here in the community, and I mentioned it,? Ratzlaff said.

Eight additional class members have joined forces to organize the event.

But, Ratzlaff said, the group is just ?getting the ball rolling.? Helping with the event isn?t limited to members of HMBC.

?We welcome other churches or other people helping us with this,? she said.

In addition to giving away dresses, the group plans to offer hair and make-up assistance on the day of Hillsboro?s prom.

?We hope to have a little card that girls can fill out if they want to come back on the day of prom,? Ratzlaff said. ?If they want to have their hair done and their nails and make-up, we?re going to do that.?

She was quick to say that Cinderella?s Closet doesn?t want to take away business from local beauticians.

?Our thinking is, there are probably some girls that can?t afford (a beautician), and probably wouldn?t go there anyway, so those are the girls we?re trying to invite,? Ratzlaff said.

Events like these are a way for churches to serve the public and to get to know the girls.

She also said the event is designed to help relieve the financial burden of prom.

?It?s expensive to buy a dress,? she said. ?Financially (Cinderella?s Closet) can benefit them.?

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