Many girls dream of going to homecoming and prom in high school. But the cost of formalwear and accessories can stand in the way.
That's where Kristin Bodenforfer of Poland comes in with a creative way to help all girls find a perfect dress without straining their budgets.
"My idea was that boys can rent tuxedos, then girls should be able to rent a dress," Bodendorfer said. "I have four daughters, ages 12 to 23, and through the years, they had to help their friends who were going to dances. Their friends came from different environments and types of families who did not have the funds to afford a dress."
Special to the Tribune Chronicle
Amelia Bodendorfer, 23, daughter of Kristin Bodendorfer, sorts through dresses donated to Diva Donations. The nonprofit group offers formalwear for girls to rent for special occasions.
Bodendorfer is the president and owner of lending boutique Diva Donations, located in the North Lima Business Complex in North Lima. She began Diva Donations in 2011, and her mission was to create a boutique where girls can rent formalwear, which has been donated by local businesses and girls in the community. The "diva" in Diva Donations stands for "divinely inspired, virtuously acquired."
It all started when Bodendorfer was looking at all the dresses inside her oldest daughter's closet.
"I was looking in her closet at all the dresses she had," Bodendorfer said. "Last year in 2011, I put a post on Facebook saying that if anyone needs a prom or a homecoming dress, we have them. I also asked if anyone is interested in donating dresses. That summer, my oldest daughter and I went to garage sales picking up dresses. We did that for fun."
You can help
Diva Donations drop-off locations include the Pretty and Plus Shop at 8 S. State St. in Struthers and Something Unique Florist at 5865 Mahoning Ave. in Austintown. Something Unique Florist also supplies corsages and flowers for the customers of Diva Donations. Diva Donations accepts prom, homecoming, sweetheart dance and wedding dresses. There is currently a need for plus-sized dresses.
A fundraiser for Diva Donations, the Diva Donations Fall Vendors Showcase, will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Packard Park Shelter House in Warren. The event will include food and drinks and a silent auction.
Bodendorfer ended up with 250 dresses that were donated and collected from others. She also received a phone call from Susan Shank, owner of the Fashion Forward Park Avenue Consignment Boutique in Lisbon. Shank offered 400 dresses, and when Bodendorfer picked them up, the dresses totaled 650.
The only thing Bodendorfer needed was space. That's where Teah Crew, owner of Pretty & Plus Shop, a plus-size and consignment shop in Struthers, came in. Crew and Bodendorfer met when Bodendorfer was dropping off dresses for Crew's shop.
"She was telling me about her idea of having a nonprofit boutique, and I really liked her idea," Crew said.
Crew offered the use of the balcony inside her store, but Bodendorfer quickly ran out of room. Her next stop was the North Lima Business Complex in North Lima, where Diva Donations now serves girls in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
Girls who would like to rent formalwear from Diva Donations are required to pay a $25 rental deposit for homecoming, winter formal and sweethearts dresses. For prom, the rental deposit is $35.
"When the girls bring dresses and accessories back, they get $15 back and we keep $10, which goes towards keeping Diva Donations open to pay our rent and for the upkeep of our dresses," Bodendorfer said. "We are a lending closet, and girls only wear these types of dresses once or twice. It's amazing; we started out with 15 dresses and now we have almost 1,000 dresses."
Bodendorfer said that Diva Donations is currently working towards their 501(c)3.
Jessica Hampton of Newton Falls is coordinator for Diva Donations.
"It really hits home for me just watching those girls find that dress," she said. "I remember being in junior high and high school and not being able to go to the dances because I could not afford a dress. When people live on a low income, they cannot afford those things. We give these girls the dress and accessories to wear to the events."
Hampton said that Diva Donations includes a variety of formalwear.
"We have so many varieties of sizes that girls can get to pick," she said. "They can go to the event and not feel that they can't afford a dress. It really helps these girls with their self-esteem."
Bodendorfer said that girls and their families travel from all over Northeast Ohio to Diva Donations.
"We want to give these girls an opportunity to have that special experience without spending a crazy amount of money for a dress," she said. "I have had girls from Youngstown, Struthers, Niles, Warren, Champion, Hanoverton, Lisbon and Sharon, Pa."
Bodedorfer would like to open a branch in Trumbull County, and also hopes to expand Diva Donations' wedding collection.
Crew said that Diva Donations is filling an important role in the community.
"I am a mother, and my daughter is now 28 years old," she said. "I remember when we were putting her through school and how dances were very important memories. Dresses today cost from $500 to even $1,000, and that amount can go towards a major car repair. What family doesn't panic when that happens? If it's a dance, and their daughter needs shoes, a dress and jewelry, that's where Diva Donations can help girls achieve this dream. Sometimes we need to support something that makes us feel good, and this is it."