Gig Harbor foster mom Alison Joseph knew that many women, herself included, have seldom-worn formal dresses stashed in the back of their closets.
And Joseph knew that many girls, especially those in foster care, struggle to afford to go to the prom.
So she put up a post on Facebook in November, asking her friends to donate dresses they weren’t going to wear anymore.
She expected about 20 dresses for Ali’s Prom Project.
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She ended up needing a rental truck to get the 700 gowns — and shoes and jewelry — from her home to the Tacoma Police Department headquarters, where about two dozen foster teens had the opportunity to pick their prom outfits Sunday.
“I kind of had this ‘Oh, crap’ moment because I didn’t realize it would get this big this fast,” said Joseph, 34, whose husband is a Tacoma police officer.
By the end of it, they’re prancing around with a huge smile on their face.
Alison Joseph, founder of Ali’s Prom Project
To launch Ali’s Prom Project, Joseph teamed with The Wishing Well Foundation, a Pierce County nonprofit that provides clothing and school supplies to foster children.
Area businesses pitched in, too, letting Joseph set up donation drop-offs throughout the county, and some salons and florists donated coupons for free hair appointments and boutonnieres.
Joseph said she saw a lot of the girls come in, shy and quiet, not knowing what to expect. But when they put on the dresses, their personalities transformed.
“By the end of it, they’re prancing around with a huge smile on their face,” she said.
Kristina Rivera of Graham brought her three foster daughters, who each picked out a dress with a one-on-one volunteer.
Miracle, 17, chose a black and gray gown with intricate stitching: “I think this dress is magnificent,” she said.
Angel, 15, picked a bright red one with beads on it: “I think it’s super pretty.” It was one of the first she tried on.
Kirsten, 14, liked a flowing peach-colored one: “I love my dress.”
Angel quickly told her how pretty it looked on her.
All three girls picked glittery silver high-heel sandals to go with their outfits.
“Props to the volunteers for taking the time to find the perfect dress,” Kirsten said.
Miracle and Rivera made a point to thank the people who donated their dresses, services and time to the event.
By the time that they’ve tried on two of the dresses, it’s a whole ’nother kid. They’re confident and excited.
Burgandy Poynter, Ali’s Prom Project volunteer
Volunteer Burgandy Poynter, 23, of Lacey didn’t expect her friend’s project to be this big, but she enjoyed watching what happened when the girls tested out the gowns.
“By the time that they’ve tried on two of the dresses, it’s a whole ’nother kid. They’re confident and excited,” Poynter said. “It turned into more than I expected. It’s really incredible.”
Poynter’s home was a drop-off point of its own for people bringing dresses from Olympia and points south, though none of the gowns was her own.
Joseph’s personal dresses didn’t make the cut either, though she did offer some of her own jewelry and shoes.
“My dresses are not what girls are wearing now,” she said. “They’re still in my closet, 15 years later.”
Visit Ali’s Prom Project at facebook.com/