BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) - Three years ago, eighth graders at Bridgeport Middle School started the BMS Dress Closet to make sure every girl would have a dress for the school's winter dance.
From left: Gracie Courtney, Maci Cook, Lilly Straite, Lauren Johnston, and Emily Miller.
"We want to make sure Winter Formal is a time they can feel special; we don't want anyone sitting at home because they felt they didn't have something to wear," said eight grade English teacher and Student Council Advisor, Amber Haddix.
This year, the torch was passed down to five eighth grade girls: Emily Miller, Lauren Johnston, Maci Cook, Lilly Straite, and Gracie Courtney. The young women have helped make the closet bigger and better than ever.
"Last year the eight graders did it, and we saw people excited about their dresses so we wanted to help," said Maci.
"We just thought it was a good thing to do," said Lauren.
Emily added, "It made us feel good seeing the girls with the smiles on their faces."
Dresses, shoes, jewelry and accessories are donated by students, faculty, and the community. Then, students in need can come shop for free. Each "shopping session" is confidential, so the students feel comfortable and have fun during their styling session.
"They get to look through all the dresses and try on as many as they want to. Then, the one that they feel really, really good in, is the one that they go home with," Haddix said.
Gracie said, "I feel like it makes their day when they find a dress they actually like and can go have fun."
With the dress closet, everyone can feel beautiful and included at the dance.
"It helps promote a sense of belonging within our school and that's what these girls want to do: they just want to help everyone find their place," Haddix said.
"I know if I was in that position, I'd want to be included," said Lilly.
Gracie added, "It's so no one gets left out."
Although they're the driving force behind the closet, the young ladies don't take all the credit.
"The whole school is combined as one; we're not just in our own little groups, we like to help each other," Maci said.
Teachers, peers, and parents all see bright futures for these five, philanthropic friends.
"I hope that one day I'm able to turn on the news, or pick up a newspaper, and see all five of their faces doing really wonderful things and helping to empower women," said Haddix.
If you would like to donate to the dress closet, please call 304-326-7142.