In 2006, I began with a goal of collecting 100 dresses to be able to give them away to those in need. I will never forget the first dress give-away in a school cafeteria. Reticent girls slowly trickled in to see if it was for real. Volunteers helped each girl find the perfect dress and then she “walked the runway” for all to see! Witnessing the transformation as they walked down the aisle with their heads high and beaming smiles, I knew it was much more than a dress or a night out that was being given. I was a part of a special moment, a defining moment in these young girls lives, where self-value and confidence soared as they saw themselves transformed.
Caitlin’s Closet® has provided young women without resources, either financial or otherwise, the opportunity to outfit themselves in donated clothes for proms, dances, academic award and sports banquets. New or lightly used dresses, have allowed teens to participate fully in important and exciting coming-of-age events, build their confidence, and create lasting memories. Since 2006, I have partnered and formed alliances with individuals, organizations, businesses and service groups to build a network throughout 40 states!
This year alone we have sponsored over 14 new events that have served diverse parts of the country and addressed unique needs. Prom dresses were shipped to an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Wedding dresses were sent to Haiti! We reached a donation high of 10,000 dresses valued at $1,000,000! Discovering the depth of needs in the women we served has challenged us to grow further in our mission statement. Now Caitlin’s Closet® is evolving, moving beyond just dresses. We are empowering all ages who are just finding their voice. I have developed a strategic plan that will position Caitlin’s Closet® as a Social Enterprise to accelerate the reach and amplify the impact. What started as a way for young women to be included in some of life’s iconic moments, has transformed into a platform where young people can also acquire the skills to define themselves so they are no longer defined by their circumstances.