Preparing for prom? TCU church ministry offers free dresses to Tarrant County students

dfwnewsa | April 1, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Preparing for prom? TCU church ministry offers free dresses to Tarrant County students

Alexandra Rodriguez, Meredith Martin and Rachel Williams (left to right), shop for dresses at Prom Dreams Boutique, a ministry through University Christian Church. The ministry provides dresses, shoes and accessories to students across Tarrant County to help offset the cost of going to the dance. (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report)
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Rachel Williams, a senior at Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, twirled in front of a three-way mirror. Her light green, floor-length gown swayed with her. In the reflection, her smiling face beamed. Behind her, two friends sported the same excitement. 

Sponsored

Williams had found her prom dress at last — and she didn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for it. 

The three girls searched for their dresses at Prom Dreams Boutique, a ministry through University Christian Church. 

“I don’t live with my mom or my parents. I live with my cousin,” Williams said. “So this was perfect, because I didn’t have to spend any money.” 

Since 2010, University Christian Church’s Prom Dreams ministry has provided dresses, shoes and accessories to Fort Worth ISD high school students at no cost. The initiative was formed to help teens overcome financial barriers they might face in going to the dance. 

In the past, the ministry reached out to school counselors in Fort Worth ISD about their services. With over a thousand short and long dresses to choose from, the boutique is expanding its reach this year for the first time by reaching out to school districts all across Tarrant County. 

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“When you think about significant moments in your life, dressing up to go to prom is probably one of those first opportunities you have to be glamorous and go all-out for an event,” said Kalen Ruiz, who chairs the ministry. “We want anybody to do that and be able to show up and look like everybody else that spent a lot of money on their dress.”  

High school students and parents shop at the Prom Dreams Boutique on March 29, 2024. The ministry offers dresses for prom and graduation during the spring season. The boutique is also open during the fall for students looking for homecoming dresses, said Kalen Ruiz, chair of the ministry. (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report) Students entering the Prom Dreams Boutique’s main room are greeted by volunteers of the ministry and asked to fill out paperwork on the pink table indicating which school the student attends. Necklaces, earrings and purses are displayed in the main room, with dresses located in other rooms of the boutique. (Marissa Greene|Fort Worth Report) Prom Dreams Boutique includes both long and short dresses in a variety of colors and sizes. Kalen Ruiz, chair of the ministry, says she suggests students try a size smaller and larger than their current dress size, since some dresses run larger or are more snug depending on the brand. (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report)

Located on the second floor of a duplex adjacent to the church, Prom Dreams Boutique has a wide range of gowns, shoes, necklaces and earrings available. 

The ministry receives the garments through donations from church members and bridal salons. 

If you go

What: Prom Dreams Boutique

Sponsored

Where: 2618 S. University Drive

When: 5-7 p.m. every Thursday, March 7-May 9

12:30-2:30 p.m. every Sunday, April 7-28

Ruiz, who has a background in fashion and retail, said she is pretty picky when it comes to deciding which donated dresses go on the racks. 

In addition to checking the quality of the fabrics, sequins and ruffles, she and volunteers make sure the boutique has high-end brands. Dresses that come from stores in the mall, Ruiz said, aren’t stocked at the boutique.  Instead, they are donated to thrift stores or other organizations in need of secondhand clothing items. 

“It’s not what we want to present to these girls to wear,” Ruiz said. “This (prom) is a special occasion and you deserve to have something that’s fabulous.”

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The idea for the Prom Dreams Boutique at University Christian Church was inspired by an existing ministry that provided free uniforms to Fort Worth students in need. (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report)

Diane Hawley, a congregant at University Christian Church for 20 years, has volunteered with the ministry since 2021. As students enter the boutique, Hawley is there to help guide them through the dress options and sizes. 

For some students who come to the boutique alone, Hawley said she is also there to provide moral support. 

“From a self-esteem perspective, it’s very uplifting for them to be able to come in here,” Hawley said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard girls say (in disbelief), ‘I’m walking out and not paying anything,’ and we’re like, ‘No, this is our gift to you.’” 

Marissa Greene is a Report for America corps member, covering faith for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at marissa.greene@fortworthreport.org or @marissaygreene. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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