Sitting inconspicuously on the second floor of a shopping plaza in Atlanta, GA is a treasure trove of ball gowns, shoes and jewelry. Chandeliers adorn the ceiling and dresses in all shapes, sizes and colors line the walls. The shop may be decorated on a budget, but the shop remains glamorous as could be.
This is no ordinary dress shop. The Enchanted Closet does more than just give girls the dresses of their dreams. It gives young women without the means to afford their own prom dress the chance to experience this rite of passage and outfits them with all they need to make their prom a night they will never forget.
"We want to make them feel just as special as anybody else," says Bonita Johnson, The Enchanted Closet's president and CEO.
When a girl arrives at The Enchanted Closet, she is treated to an experience fit for a queen. With her own personal shopper styling her as soon as she walks through the door, she spends her time in the shop finding the perfect dress before moving on to the perfect accessories.
The dresses are collected throughout the year, in part from donations from stores and individuals, and in part from the dress drive organized by The Enchanted Closet. For those who are unable to make it to the shop for a fitting, The Enchanted Closet takes the dresses to them.
The right dress can help build a girl's self-confidence, feeling of self-worth and as a result, her resistance to peer pressure.
The dresses' effects are instantly visible. The girls "light up when [they] put on a dress" and it can sometimes be the first time they have really seen themselves as pretty.
As Bonita says, it is important to equip young girls with the tools they need to resist the pressures that surround them every day. "Statistics show that when girls have low self-esteem, they fall prey to those things" that can drastically affect their lives.
The Enchanted Closet's work does not stop at providing dresses, shoes and accessories. Bonita emphasizes the importance of getting the girls to talk about the difficulties and pressures they face in their lives.
The Girl$ Program was set up for girls aged 12 to 19 and organizes seminars and discussion sessions where the girls can speak in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere about their problems.
Girl$ also highlights the benefit of making goals to work toward. It helps the girls think about those goals and how to achieve them whether it is helping with self-confidence, time management or setting up internships.
Bonita herself provides more than advice. She leads by example. A microbiologist with the EPA, she devotes her spare time to the charity and shows the girls what they can achieve while remaining an inspiration to those around them.
In fact, the whole Board of Directors is made up of extremely successful women, all of whom are prefect role-models for the girls they meet. Women leaders inspiring the next generation of women leaders.
The Enchanted Closet is lucky to have a celebrity spokeswoman in radio DJ and sports commentator, Elle Duncan. She gives The Enchanted Closet the exposure they deserve but more importantly, she is an example of what the girls can achieve with hard work, offering guidance and advice.
Started in 2003, The Enchanted Closet has since given away over 3,500 dresses. For more information on The Enchanted Closet go to their website or follow them on Twitter. To find out more about donating dresses, shoes or accessories to The Enchanted Closet or to find out how to volunteer for the charity, click here.