BRANDON, Fla. - It's fall and that means it's time for high school homecomings. The dress, the shoes, and the dinner out can get very expensive. One group is committed to helping girls who can't afford to buy a new dress get one.
Stephanie Brown gets dresses ready for high schools girls who can't afford a dress for homecoming.
"Most of them have never been worn and that's the beauty of it. They still have their tags on it," she said.
To help the girls out, Stephanie started Gowns for Girls. The organization provides free dresses to high school girls going to their homecoming and prom dances.
"Where do girls go if they can't find a dress for their dance? So I just wanted to provide that opportunity. Kind of a small way of saying, ‘We got you, kids. You can do this. You can feel good about yourself and be a part of your high school experience,’" she said.
Stephanie is a middle school teacher and started the project in 2019 after one of her students was having a problem buying a dress for a school dance.
"It was eye-opening for me and very rewarding that I was able to help her dress, head to toe, for that special dance. And maybe it was only eighth grade. My thoughts are, if this is one kid in eighth grade, can you imagine how many juniors and seniors are not able to go to their high school dances? So I wanted to help," she said.
Before she knew it, she had collected more than 400 dresses to give away.
"We do some mending and alterations on dresses that are given to us that may need a little work. So there's a lot that goes in behind the scenes," she said.
She says all the hard work is worth it to provide a way for students to enjoy their very special night.
"I know this first nine weeks at school has been rough for a lot of kids with COVID and everybody trying to find their new normal with what school is supposed to be like. So if this is one way to give them a little extra happiness, shine a light on maybe something that's kind of dull and dismal, then let's go there. Let's show up, get a dress and make a difference."
It's a difference that she hopes brings smiles to the faces of teenage girls.
Stephanie says they have plenty of dresses, so if you or someone you know is in need of one, email GownsforGirls.email@example.com or visit the boutique for this homecoming season at the Family Life Center at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, at 3315 S Bryan Rd, Brandon, FL 33511. The distribution date is October 16 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.