YSU helps local high schoolers ‘Say Yes to the Dress’

SNLO donated used prom dresses for high schoolers. Photo by Gunnhildur Baldursdottir / The Jambar

By Gunnhildur Baldursdottir / The Jambar

The Youngstown State University’s Student Nonprofit Leadership Organization collaborated with DIVA Donations to collect prom dresses for high school students in the Mahoning Valley.

Located on Hitchcock Road in Boardman, DIVA Donations is a formal clothing closet where girls and women of all ages can check out a dress, shoes and accessories for their special occasion free of charge. In return, renters complete two volunteer hours for an organization in the community.

SNLO’s prom dress drive collected 23 used prom or formal dresses to high schoolers who cannot afford the attire they need. The drive took place March 11 through 22.

Annabelle Himes, a senior human resources major and the president of SNLO, said the dresses were collected on the third floor Kilcawley Center and then driven to the DIVA Donations.

“It was a great way to get involved — not only on campus but also in the community,” Himes said. “We just started interacting with DIVA Donations this past semester, and so far, we have loved it and had such a great experience that we want to continue to give back to them.”

Kristin Bodendorfer, the CEO of DIVA Donations, founded the volunteer-run organization in 2013. She said DIVA Donations started from a place of love that now involves the whole community.

“My daughter had a friend who was raised by a grandmother. She tried to go to a dance at my daughter’s school in jeans and a T-shirt, and they would not let her in. It was really sad,” Bodendorfer said. “We used to pick up dresses so they could go to the dances together. So, when my daughter moved out, she had 15 dresses in her closet, and that’s how DIVA Donation started.”

Bodendorfer said DIVA Donations uses an appointment system to ensure every customer has time to find the right prom dress and receive quality assistance.

“They go around and pick everything they might need, then we ask them, ‘Do you want to be a princess or a movie star?’ That’s because a princess has a poofy gown, and a movie star has a sleek gown,” Bodendorfer said. “Next, we ask them their favorite color. Sometimes, they don’t have a favorite color, and sometimes, their prom has a theme. All of this brings us closer to finding the dress.”

Before customers leave DIVA Donations, they can receive ‘emergency kits,’ flowers and undergarments. Customers can also explore the beauty bar, which has unopened beauty products and perfumes.

“We always have different businesses, and people donate unopened beauty products to us. Then, we have our little prom emergency kits,” Bodendorfer said. “They have band-aids, safety pins, breath-sewing mints and all the little things you would need in case anything happens.”

Madison Umbel, a junior human resources major and the vice president of SNLO, said volunteering for DIVA Donations is a great way for students who need volunteer hours to gain valuable experience working in the community.

“[Volunteering] was really fun. It kind of reminded me of being on ‘Say Yes to the Dress,’” Umbel said. “Each of us was assigned an individual who came in, and we went through the whole process with them, and it was just a really awesome experience.”

Students can visit DIVA Donations’s website to book an appointment for any special occasion. The store is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.