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Prom dress donation business gets new owner and renewed energy

Just inside the door of Hannah’s Prom and Dress Closet hangs a bulletin board with a handful of photos, thank-you notes and cards.

“Thank you for what you did for the girls,” one reads.

“Thank you for the dresses. There was a lot going with foster care this year,” another reads.

Executive Director Karen Herford flips through the nearly 600 dresses and formal gowns that hang neatly on racks, and she pulls one out here and there.

“Look at this one,” Herford said, holding up a dark burgundy dress with hundreds of beads attached to the skirt. “This is my mom’s favorite – isn’t it beautiful?”

Herford just got the keys to Julianne’s Prom Closet, a nonprofit that gives prom and homecoming dresses to young women who can’t pay for their own dress and she’s pretty excited.

“People ask if I feel overwhelmed; I really don’t – I think this is the greatest idea,” said Herford, who also runs her own wedding planning business and works at a women’s crisis center. “I’ve never done anything like this, but it just feels so right.”

The nonprofit was started by Julianne Sullivan in 2007 in downtown Spokane. It’s a simple concept: Young women who can’t afford a prom or homecoming dress can borrow a dress of their choosing – for free.

Dress recipients may keep the dresses or bring them back for someone else to use.

“Some bring them back, some don’t, it’s up to the girl,” Herford said.

The only requirement is a letter from the student’s school or pastor showing a legitimate need, she said.

The shop is open by appointment only and it’s set up to give young women a pleasant shopping experience. The dresses are professionally cleaned and repaired if needed, and there are shoes and purses from which to choose, too.

“My mom just donated 40 purses. I mean, how does one even have 40 evening purses?” Herford asks.

Mom, Pearl Shines, laughs. She’s joined the small board together with Carrie Pennell, Charla Cochran-Anderson and Joslyn Cox.

Herford is hoping to do more outreach at area schools and perhaps grow the profile of the store.

“I found out about it because my son’s girlfriend needed a dress,” Herford said. “There’s such a need out there, and these dresses are so expensive.”

The nonprofit has been renamed Hannah’s Prom and Dress Closet after Herford’s daughter, Hannah.

Herford said she already had two clients, and she hoped for more before the prom season is over.

“There’s no need to be ashamed,” Herford said. “Come down here and get your dress on.”


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