Two mothers and their daughters started a free dress giveaway a few years ago, which continues this weekend at Christ Lutheran Church in Paddock Lake. Left to right: Wanda Hutchings and her daughter, Amanda, Anne and her mother, Leslie Taylor.

If you go…

WHAT: Dress Giveaway
WHEN: 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7
9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8
WHERE: Christ Lutheran Church, 24929 75th St., Paddock Lake.

A’s Dress Closet helps teens find a formal look

By Jason Arndt

Planning for homecoming and prom is a time-honored tradition for girls, but for some, they are discouraged when they cannot afford the perfect dress and other accessories.

The financial dilemma, however, does not have to hinder a girl’s mission to attend these high school events.

In Kenosha County, two mothers and their daughters have firsthand experience buying dresses, and they have found a way to eliminate the financial dilemma courtesy of a non-profit organization.

The nonprofit organization, A’s Dress Closet, was founded by Wanda Hutchings, of Twin Lakes, and Trevor’s Leslie Taylor and their daughters.

The daughters, Amanda Hutchings and Anne Taylor, are 2015 graduates of Wilmot Union High School who attend the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Annually, the four come together for a free dress giveaway during the first weekend of September in Paddock Lake. The dress giveaway will be from 3 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8, at Christ Lutheran Church, 24929 75th St., Paddock Lake.

Challenging mission
Hutchings, who has two other daughters, Alyssa and Arielle, said finding affordable dresses presented a challenge.

“I have three daughters and Leslie has one, so we both knew how expensive it could be,” she said. “The oldest two daughters of mine were only two years apart, so it was one right after the other, from homecoming to prom.”

According to Wanda, a family could pay $200 to $500 for dance expenses, including the dress, accessories, shoes and a ticket.

When their daughters were in school in 2013, Leslie recalled attending an event in Illinois, where the two found a solution.

“We had actually gone to a different dress closet put on by the Boys and Girls Club of Illinois,” she said. “When we were there, we decided to try it, and we have been going ever since.”

Wanda, meanwhile, said it offered them a chance to help families in the future.

“We just thought it would be great to help families that were not doing so well,” Wanda said.

Although the organization has a vision to help families who may not have sufficient funds, any girl is welcome to come and try on a dress, she said.

They also offer dresses and items for other formal events.

Opening launch
When they deliberated on a name for the organization, they decided to call it A’s Dress Closet, because their daughters all have names starting with the letter “A.”

The mothers, meanwhile, received dress and accessory contributions from garage sales, co-workers, friends and local businesses to start the free giveaways.

Since then, the organization’s dress inventory has grown to 300, which came as a surprise to Wanda.

“We were hoping it would catch on, and it is great that people are passing the word,” Wanda said. “We never thought we could have that many dresses, which is great, so we are happy about that.”

As the dresses accumulated, so did accessories, such as jewelry, shoes, purses and gift certificates.

Contributing businesses have been Miss Ruby Bridal Boutique, of Milwaukee, Ooh-La-La Consignment, of Antioch, Ill., Westosha Floral, Scully’s, Ruth’s Hairlines, Cabana Tan, Tenuta’s, Subway and Taste of Italy.

Bon Bon Belle, of Burlington, Richter’s Marketplace, Sentry, Mindy Cooling State Farm insurance and Kenosha’s La Sposa Boutique also have pitched in.

Wanda credits word-of-mouth, along with generous friends, for the organization’s success.

Helping Hundreds
While the 2018 event will be held at Christ Lutheran Church in Paddock Lake, the organization has hosted it in two other locations, The Sharing Center in Trevor and Salem Community Library.

At last year’s giveaway, A’s Dress Closet distributed 33 dresses to girls who came from area high schools.

The eight high schools were Westosha Central,
Wilmot, Catholic Central, Shoreland Lutheran, Burlington, Union Grove, Kenosha Indian Trail and Racine Horlick.

In previous years, the organization has seen students from other schools come in and try out a dress, Leslie said.

“We have had some girls from Delavan come, and we do have quite a few girls that come from Racine,” she said.

The girls, Wanda said, have left with uplifting spirits.

“When they come out with a smile on their face and they have their dresses, shoes and jewelry, we just feel blessed to dress them,” said Wanda.

Amanda agreed, adding the event has reduced anxiety among girls.

“I know when we were in high school, it was kind of hard for us to find dresses and be able to afford to go to these things,” Amanda said.

“To be able to shine a light on this and put a smile on their face is great.”

Leslie said they plan to continue the event beyond September if the interest is still there.

“As long as our numbers keep going up, then we will continue to host our events,” she said.

As the four prepare for another event, they have one request for recipients: Share photos of themselves in their new dress on their Facebook page.


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