God has a way of turning something dark and uncertain into something great, and there is a purpose and a lesson through challenging times and uncertainty. This was the case with The Dresses and Dreams Project. Last year, we were well into the planning stages of our 7th annual Operation Prom Girl event when the reality of a shut down due to a Covid pandemic hit. It was then more than evident that businesses and venues were closed indeterminately. We made an announcement that our event was cancelled and waited to take the next steps, not knowing it would be a year later, event planning season again, and we were still locked down and schools remained closed. I thought about how hard it has been on our students. With no certainty as to whether or not there would be proms in 2021, I knew there would be graduates and they deserved to be honored and adored! This, Operation Grad Girl- Bless a Grad Outreach was born. And I have to say, this may have been out best event to date. With a little over a month to plan, we hustled and collected donations, created goodie bags for each girl to receive with the help of Youth Leaders of Menifee, rounded up our service providers and finally got a yes for a location to have the dress giveaway when I asked Elevation Church Menifee’s Pastor Kasey Crawford.
Soon the word got out on Instagram, Facebook, and through flyers and emails. Girls who applied to our free program told stories of heartbreak and hardships on their applications. Even though we set a limit of 50 girls, we never turn anyone away. Over 65 young ladies were blessed this year- 20 of which drove as far as Victorville when we partnered with a wonderful woman from Victorville School District who worked diligently to make the arrangements with each student. The great thing about the program is that it goes much further than just a party of formal dress. When the girls attend, they are able to make life decisions or get urgent and emergent help. Our service providers include agencies that provide resources and immediate assistance for alcohol/drug addiction, domestic violence, human trafficking, pregnancy, self worth, college, career, life skills and more. Girls are also welcome to join the all-volunteer staff and pay it forward by joining our new Youth Ambassador program.
Each and every attendee this year was an encourager of her peers. The young ladies clapped and cheered for the others as they found their perfect gown. Menifee Police Department’s lady police officers mingled with the girls throughout the event and the atmosphere in the “house” was down-to-earth and authentic. Barriers are being broken and unity was evident at this event. The teens were so grateful, upbeat and were really happy about being out and being in-person at a function where they were able to meet new people and celebrate not only the mandates lifting, but their rite of passage as a graduate of the class of 2021.
Each girl received breakfast, lunch, a beautiful dress, raffle prizes, resources, and a coupon in their goodie bags for free photography session from Visual Impact Photography. Buffalo Wild Wings and Chick Fil A Murrieta provided meal coupons for all attendees. Macy’s Temecula donated our most stylish, fashion forward gowns and we are so overwhelmed by the generosity of our community.
Times of hardship can not only become a learning experience but if we are looking, we can find that in the midst of times where we feel the light has been dull and worn, as we make it to the other side of struggle, we can see the lessons that are birthed out of those hard times and press ahead with fresh gratitude and newfound joy which comes with a newfound sense of freedom.
We are so grateful to not only the girls who attended that filled our hearts with so much joy, but each and every volunteer of our all-volunteer organization and our community partners and friends that participated and made this day a success. Most of all thanks to God, who we trust even when we can’t see the whole road, but only the next step.
He makes all things work together for our good. No matter how bleak a situation may appear… See Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20