The girls were not coming for the dresses.
So the dresses will go to the girls.
“We are touring with the dresses in order to reach more teens,” said Moe Lietz, founder of the Sparkle Network and its Prom Closet Project, which provides free formal gowns and accessories to teenagers and young women in need.
“We have 150 dresses,” Lietz said, many of which were donated by Bella Rosa Bridal Boutique in Shelby Township and from as far away as Agusta, Georgia. Also part of the collection in the Prom Closet Project are the pretty and often expensive accessories needed to complete one’s prom ensemble.
“We started this a few years ago when we found out that a good friend of ours could not afford to buy her daughter a dress for prom,” Lietz said.
It used to be that families shared their formal wear. One cousin would wear it and then pass it down to a younger sibling, cousin, or even neighbor.
“But that tradition died off with the ‘me’ generation,” said Lietz.
So she and a group of friends decided to make sure that the friend’s daughter didn’t miss the prom. When word got out of their quest, a friend of a friend who knew an actress, was given the dress that the actress wore for her red carpet movie premiere. The gown’s bead work needed a little mending but that posed no problem for Lietz, who has a background in fashion design. Cheryl Lemke of Creating Clothing Collection also donates her time as a seamstress to help repair any dresses that might be gently used.
“The dress was beautiful, aqua blue with beads,” Lietz said.
To this they added a pair of shoes, jewelry, a new hairdo, makeup, and off to the prom she went.
“She looked gorgeous. She told us she felt like a princess,” Lietz said. “When you give someone a chance to do to something as important as attending senior prom it does something for their self-confidence and often inspires them to do something more.”
That was several years ago.
Today, that teenager is attending Macomb Community College’s nursing program.
Meanwhile, free dresses for prom has become part of the Sparkle Network, a nonprofit organization that does charitable events and acts of kindness for individuals and groups in the community like Turning Point, which provides shelter and programs to victims/survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Sparkle Network provided Turning Point’s guests with business attire so they could look more professional when attending job interviews. In May, the Sparkle Network plans to host a comedy event to help families dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Among the comedians entertaining the crowds will be Lietz, who, in addition to her many other creative skills, performs stand up comedy.
The Sparkle Network stands for a lot of things including compassion, charity, comedy, underdog, community and unity to name a few listed in its mission statement.
“We hope to inspire and be inspired by those who follow us and our activities, projects, crazy adventures and so much more,” Lietz said.
The dresses are scheduled make three stops during the April and May tour.
• Celtic Sisters, at 50935 Washington Street in New Baltimore, April 12 until 3 p.m. and April 13 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Children With Hair Loss, at 12776 Dixie Highway, South Rockwood, April 16 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
• Kitty Deluxe, at 22202 Harper Avenue, St. Clair Shores, from noon to 4 p.m.
Anyone interested in seeing the dresses is being asked to schedule an appointment, as the Prom Closet Project is being hosted by businesses that will be open. Just send an email to Lietz at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the business you are planning to attend in the subject line of your email and two time slots that work for you.
For more information about the Sparkle Network and the Prom Closet Project, visit sparklenetwork.org.