Just days before her death, Howard sent a beautiful gown to Black just because she wanted her to have it. Black looked at the dress and thought about a place in another state where she heard that girls could get free gowns. She decided to begin a similar program in memory of her beautiful and generous friend.
The program has continued through donations of new and gently used dresses from individuals and businesses. Gardner's provides dry cleaning and storage as needed to keep the project going.
Rick and Cathy Leach, owners of three Gardner's locations, were on hand Wednesday along with Black to accept the gowns from the first lady and to thank her.
Black accepts donations of gowns throughout the year in preparation of each upcoming prom season.
Last prom season, more than 50 girls from several counties selected gowns from Ronda's Closet. A wide variety of styles and sizes are needed each year to accommodate all tastes and sizes.
The gowns are free to all who need them with no questions asked. The only request is that the dresses be returned so others may wear them the following prom season.
Black is grateful to all who donate gowns and feels blessed each year to have enough to go around.
"It's almost like God sends us more," she said. "It replenishes itself."
For more information about Ronda's Closet or to donate gowns, call Black at 304-389-4604.
Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlo...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.