We have recently changed our official non-profit organization’s name to The Dresses and Dreams Project. Formerly known as Operation Prom Girl, the annual dress program for teen girls with hardships and challenging circumstances, we agreed that a name change was just what we needed to convey to the public that we are so much more than just a dress.
How It Began
Founded in 2014, Our organization was born when a single mother and makeup artist for two decades had a vision to help a few girls get to prom who could not afford to do so. She was blessed a few years prior by someone who helped her own daughter attend prom and knew it was time to give back. Her experience as a makeup artist often led her to playing a “counseling” role when ladies, young or more mature, sat down in the makeup chair. They all had similar stories to tell. And many were hurt, scarred, and broken. Many stories had similarities. Only the faces had changed. As a trauma survivor herself, she knew how important it was to listen. And more importantly, for these women to heal.
Word quickly spread in the Inland Empire of her mission, and she used social media to solicit dress donations. Within a month, over 100 gowns were collected and within three months as early spring and prom time arrived, over 300 gowns were donated to this worthy cause. The first year, 18 girls were assisted and to date, over 1000 gowns have been given away at an annual event called Operation Prom Girl. These free events are truly more than just a gown giveaway. Attendees receive a full day’s itinerary including encouraging and powerful guest speakers, luncheon, resources and referrals, fashion show, hair and makeup workshop, vision boards, opportunity for college and career assistance, and on- site emergency assistance for those who may have emergent issues which would call for a counselor or trauma professional. In addition to their gown, they receive goody bags, shoes, gift certificates for services, jewelry and accessories, and raffle prizes. But it doesn’t stop there. Assistance is also provided to military women/balls, and special needs programs. In 2019 we were honored to provide dresses to a Tim Tebow ” Night To Shine” Prom for special needs teens in Temecula, CA.
A Year-Round Teen Girl and Women’s Collaborative
The name change opens a door for this 100% volunteer-run organization whose programs are free to vulnerable teen girls and women. We felt we were an organization that was associated only with prom season. The founder, Dawn Schultz, states, “Operation Prom Girl will still be very much part of the program. It’s here to stay. We have 1500 dresses and an annual event. And the beauty of the gown is where a girl might get a glimpse of the beauty she may not be able to see in herself initially. But we never want to just leave a girl in a dress with a full face of makeup, and have her believe that this is all there is to life. We want her to come face to face with the mirror and that reflection staring back at her when she is bare, real, and vulnerable, and learn to love who she is and what she sees. Beauty behind the mask.” We want these girls to get to know and love who they are as precious children of God and to help them learn and grow through a fun and nurturing environment, laughter, self-care , learning what healthy relationships look like, and what they’re not, and providing opportunities for healing at a foundational level so they can sever the roots that may hinder or destroy their ability to be all they can be, make healthy decisions, and flourish in life with integrity. I know their stories because I’ve lived it. That girl was ME. And I want to be to our clients who I needed when I was trying to find my way.”
For this reason, The Dresses and Dreams Project will offer classes, activities, resources, and referrals year-round by collaborating with teens and women in our community that can benefit from the empowerment of healthy lifestyle, life skills, counseling services, mentorship, and more. Dawn concludes by saying , “It has always been part of the vision. The door is now opening for us to implement what we have always conveyed and stood for. And what was part of our mission and vision statement, our own dream. We have some incredible volunteers and others on board that are now collaborating for a cause. It’s really a beautiful thing.”
Please do that it’s possible to break vicious cycles of family dysfunction and traumas that lead to unhealthy behaviors that can manifest as addiction, unhealthy lifestyles, fill in the blank, the list goes on. And long-term, when the cycle is broken, these young women who will eventually bear children, can pass the goodness on to their own daughters and sons. We want to have a positive effect on individuals so we can affect future generations and the world, one soul at a time!
For more information on our program, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org