Last year, five Decatur High School girls – decked in glitzy gowns, strappy shoes and the perfect jewelry accent – beamed as they posed for photos around the county courthouse square, the traditional locale for pre-prom photo shoots.
For these five, prom had been an uncertainty until Paying It Forward For Prom, an effort organized by Amanda Meador Smith of Decatur, came along.
The not-for-profit drive helps low-income teenagers earn the basics for a great prom experience – including their attire, hairstyle and makeup – in exchange for volunteering community service hours.
Although only in its second year, the cause has already grown exponentially. This year, it has expanded not only to all Wise County high school junior and senior girls, but to boys as well.
“There is a need for boys, too, not just girls,” Smith said. “Everyone deserves that opportunity to glam up, dress up and enjoy the formal night with their classmates.”
After hearing about the initiative at her church two years ago, Smith, a local hairstylist who thrives on “making people feel beautiful,” toyed with the idea before throwing it out on Facebook.
“And from there it just kind of exploded,” she said. “The community has really reached out to help with this effort… I really feel like it’s God’s calling to help these kids. There is no reason teens should be missing out on things like prom because of financial issues. There are other ways to pay it forward, and this effort lets our local teens know that even though you can’t help others financially, you can help them with your time and service.”
Once approved – based on need – qualified students will receive a list of places where they can volunteer the mandated six hours to “pay it forward.” Students may then exchange their completed hours for prom essentials – a donated dress (cleaned and pressed by Dry Clean Super Center) and accessories and hair, makeup and nail appointments (provided by Weatherford College Wise County cosmetology students) for the girls; a tuxedo fitting (sponsored by Sunshine Square), haircut (courtesy of Patti’s Hair Parlor stylists) and boutonnieres and corsages, if they have a date (donated by Sarah Jane’s Flower Shop in Bridgeport) for the boys.
“Businesses have jumped on board and offered their services, and I’ve been getting calls from lots of people in our community wanting to help financially or with their time,” Smith said. “The giving of your time to help someone else – that’s what this is all about.”
Dress fittings will be 9 to 11 a.m. Friday, March 29, at CrossRoads Community Church (1400 Deer Park Rd., in Decatur) next to Rann Elementary School. Smith said the current inventory includes more than 175 dresses, 24 pairs of shoes and several boxes of jewelry. However, she will continue to accept donations so they may cater to different tastes. Items can be dropped off at Patti’s Hair Parlor in Decatur.
The girls will not receive their dress until the week of their prom, after community service hours are completed. Dresses must be returned the Monday following their prom.
Likewise, tuxedo fittings for the boys will be scheduled when community service hours are turned in.
All service hours, for both boys and girls, are due two weeks prior to the student’s prom date.
“Our hope is to continue to grow this project year after year to create a lasting impact on the lives of the teenagers who benefit from the donations of the community and the life lessons learned during community service work,” Smith said.
Apply for this assistance by Friday, March 29, at www.payitforwardforprom.org.
To help fund tuxedo rentals begins at 9 a.m., Thursday, March 28 at Patti’s Hair Parlor in Decatur
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
- Donate your gently used dresses, shoes and jewelry at Patti’s Hair Parlor in Decatur.
- Contribute financial resources to fund tuxedo rentals for boys.
- Offer your non-profit organization as an option for candidates to volunteer time.
- Nominate candidates.
Call Amanda at 940-536-8585