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Ronda's Closet alleviates prom costs

Wishing a fairy godmother would help with the high cost of a prom gown?

Elegant dresses are free at Ronda's Closet with no questions asked. There is even a rack for chaperones to choose a dress to wear on the big night.

A prom gown and accessories can run into hundreds of dollars, stretching an already tight budget. However, it doesn't have to be that way.

Ronda's Closet, housed at Aldersgate United Methodist Church near Sissonville, has a huge selection of elegant dresses in a variety of sizes. Colors range from bold and glittery to basic black.

There is nothing like seeing the gleam in a girl's eyes when she finds that perfect dress, organizer Julia Black said.

Gowns were selected last year by more than 50 girls from the counties of Kanawha, Putnam, Braxton, Logan and Lincoln. A couple of girls traveled from Kentucky and Ohio to get dresses.

While the "shopping" process is confidential, girls don't seem too concerned about that with so many people stretching budgets to make ends meet these days, Black said.

Girls are more concerned about searching through the inventory for that perfect gown to wear on a special night.

New and gently used gowns are donated by individuals and businesses. Nandel's in Eleanor donated 30 new gowns this year. Girls are asked to return gowns after their respective proms so that others may enjoy them next year. Gardner's provides dry cleaning and storage to keep the project going.

This marks the eighth year for Ronda's Closet, a project that makes the prom affordable for everyone.

Black launched Ronda's Closet during the prom season of 2006 in memory of her friend Ronda Jones Howard of Charleston, who died of breast cancer in 2004 at the age of 44.

Howard, who was a model, was a giving and loving person who thought of others. It seemed fitting to open Ronda's Closet in her memory.

Gowns from Ronda's Closet will be modeled in an upcoming fashion show at Sissonville High School. About 36 SHS seniors will wear the gowns in the 2013 Prom Show Extravaganza set for 1 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 15 in the school auditorium. The event is a fundraiser for the Sissonville High prom. Tickets are $3. Seating is limited. Call the school at 304-348-1954.

Sissonville High School teacher Brenda Walker-Bowen organizes the show each year. She said participants have a good time while gaining confidence in elegant gowns on the runway.

"I've showcased Ronda's Closet dresses for the last few years," Walker-Bowen said.

The guys who participate in the fashion show wear tuxedoes borrowed from Estep's in downtown Charleston and Men's Wearhouse on Corridor G.

On a recent day, several Sissonville High girls selected gowns at Ronda's Closet to be worn in the fashion show.

"The dresses are high quality and the selection is wide," Tiffany Dingee said.

"There are a lot of pretty gowns and you have fun with your friends trying them on," Cheyanne Spears said.

Kimberly Middleton encourages girls to look there for gowns.

"These are really nice dresses," she said. "Bring friends, have fun and get some really pretty dresses."

Bethany Lambert said the upcoming fashion show at her school will be fun because she can have a good time on stage in a relaxed atmosphere with her friends. She also recommends Ronda's Closet for prom gown shopping.

Those who donate gowns know they go for a good cause and those who wear them can save hard-earned cash.

Aside from gowns, donations of shoes and accessories are appreciated, Black said. Also, these donations may be tax-deductible with paperwork available upon request.

Ronda's Closet opens to the public on Feb. 16 and will remain open each Saturday through prom season. Hours will be 10 a.m. to noon. Aldersgate United Methodist, 6823 Sissonville Drive, is located north of Sissonville High School.

For more information, call Julia Black at 304-389-4604.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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