What started as a senior project at a high school to help friends has since evolved into a full-fledged non-profit that continues its mission to benefit hundreds of young ladies every prom season, with a nod to being eco-friendly as well.

Katie’s Project in Myrtle Beach offers support in attending milestone social events, such as prom and pageants. Prom can cost a person as much as $600 and Katie’s Project helps to reduce the financial stress and potential embarrassment by providing a free dress, shoes and jewelry, as well as access to other reduced services from partnering businesses. So, where do the dresses come from? The dresses are gently-used and donated from the collections of other young women. The concept of sustainability is at the core of Katie’s Project through the idea of reuse and creating a positive community impact.

I recently visited the Katie’s Project boutique at The Market Common, the same store that almost closed its doors in January until an anonymous donor stepped in. While The Market Common generously donates the space, monetary donations cover the non-profit’s operating expenses, and this amazing anonymous donor saved Katie’s Project for this prom season.

I met up with Sarah George, Project Coordinator, who has been with Katie’s Project since its inception in 2007, and she was training a new volunteer that evening. Since the organization is solely volunteer-based, Katie’s Project relies on about 25 volunteers to run the boutique, outfit young ladies and help sort the donations. “The real backbone of this organization is the high school students,” said George. “They volunteer an amazing amount of time.”

During my visit, I witnessed two young ladies find their dream dresses among the enormous collection of about 1,500 to choose from in the store. One picked out an illuminating blue floor-length gown and the other chose a sparkling black and white floral one. It was incredible to watch their excitement while browsing the store and making their final decisions.

Since 2007, Katie’s Project has helped almost 1,000 young women and already about 100 for this year’s prom season. Some of these young women come from Horry County, but others are from Marion, Georgetown, Florence counties and across the border in Columbus County, N.C. Katie’s Project offers its services to those who qualify and the application process is simple and available online so students can access it from anywhere with an Internet connection. They also work closely with local schools and service organizations.

So you are probably wondering, who is Katie? Well, Katie was the original student that started the project idea of a dress drive at her high school. She’s now in college, but her sister does continue to volunteer. When word about the project got out, Kathy Foxworth of Litus Properties, donated several of her own dresses and was so inspired that she decided to keep it going. Litus Properties is the corporate sponsor of Katie’s Project with Foxworth as the president and executive director of the non-profit. The community embraces the concept of Katie’s Project and several local businesses help out by offering a reduced rate for dry cleaning, alterations and salon services for the young women that benefit from Katie’s Project.

One of the future goals of Katie’s Project is to offer lifestyle workshops for the young women to take them past prom.

Donations are accepted throughout the year. If you’d like to help Katie’s Project, check out the organization’s Wish List:

• Volunteers

• Gently-used dresses, especially size 12 and up

• Formal shoes

• Jewelry

• Monetary donations – to support operating expenses

To learn more, visit http://katiesproject.org.

the author

Originally from Virginia, Jennifer C. Sellers is passionate about sustainability and conservation in South Carolina and throughout the world. She earned her BA in English from Coastal Carolina University and her MAS in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver. She is a university sustainability coordinator that implements programs and teaches people about going green and being sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @MyGreenGlasses

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