Monica has the help of many dedicated individuals. Here she is standing at the Dresstravaganza check out counter with volunteer coordinator, Amanda Bashista.
When you meet Monica Stamper, there is no doubt that there is something special going on behind her sparkling eyes. She is relaxed and poised, with a smile that says, “Come on in. You are welcome.” It was this kind of charisma and loving nature that led Stamper to creating an event that continues to serve her local community and beyond. By creating an event, which is now known as, Dresstravaganza, over 1,000 young girls have been given an opportunity that would not have been possible otherwise. Stamper, with the help of her community, has opened up a storefront where girls can “shop” for that perfect dress, despite their economic standing.
Like most successful non-profits, it all started with a small idea and dedicated individuals. Stamper, while working at a youth outreach center, was brainstorming ways to reach out to young girls in the community. Her great idea? “Let’s give away prom dresses!” The group pulled on their resources and in just 4 weeks 100 dresses were donated to the cause.
This large act of generosity drew the attention of the media, and the local news showed up to help spread the word. The reporter mistakenly announced on air that the center was open to all of Boise, every Saturday in April for girls to come pick out dresses. This was not the vision of the founders. In fact, they had chosen to focus on just one school, operating on a much smaller scale. In the words of Stamper, “We were all freaking out! But all the needs were met. In the first year, we gave away just over 100 dresses.” That was back in 2009, and marked the birth of Dresstravaganza
From humble beginnings, utilizing space in local churches, and scrambling to get help wherever they could, it’s astounding to see how much Dresstravaganza has grown in 6 years. They now have a permanent storefront, an onsite seamstress available for alternations, and have partnered up with Paul Mitchell the School to have hair and makeup done on the day of the big event. Volunteers show up, and act as personal shoppers, helping girls pick out the perfect dress while making the experience one that is personal and memorable.
Mirrors, etched with supporting businesses’ names, adorn the wall behind the checkout counter. Clear reminders of how much the community values the services provided here.
All of these services are free of charge. The goal is to make girls feel beautiful, worthy, and loved. A huge goal considering what many of these girls are facing in their lives. A group of girls from the local shelter were brought in this year to shop, be pampered, and receive a complementary photo shoot to capture this special memory. Photos of that day, a forever reminder of their worth and beauty.
The blessings are bigger than what we can see on the surface, as the people of Dresstravangza have begun to explore the power of #justonedress, a hashtag meant to invite the community to share what just one dress can do for a girl. Stamper knows just how powerful something like this can be in the life of a young girl because she hears the amazing stories. She sees it like this:
“The dress is a seed planted. When they fall on hard times they may look back at that dress and remember a time when someone helped them. I want them to know that they are beautiful, worthy, and loved.”
This year, every girl was surprised with the option to pick out a free piece of jewelry upon check out. The jewelry was donated by Clothes for the Cause.
Stamper’s vision behind this whole event was to empower young women. This is not a charity where its beneficiaries feel like lesser people as they reach out for help. This is an organization that gives choice and a unique experience to everyone it serves. At Dresstravaganza a girl can shop through hundreds of dresses, try them on, model for a doting crowd, and have 100% choice in how she will look on prom day. Girls who have spoken with Stamper after the experience have confessed things like, “I have never felt beautiful in my life, but today I do.” Now that says something about the power of just one dress.
Volunteers serve as personal shoppers, helping girls make the perfect selection. Here one of our Bunnies, Alexandria White, shows off a gorgeous gown.
Monica Stamper and the women of Dresstravaganza, represent the kind of women that we want our little cottontails to grow into: Women who see a need, know how to utilize their resources, and find a way to empower others.
Dresstravangaza is currently working on collecting wedding and bridesmaid dresses to help even further with that most special day. With women like Stamper and the support of her community, no dream is too large.
Like Dresstravaganza on Facebook to stay up to date and find ways to get involved.