Marissa McLeod: the loveliest prom queen

Miss Thrifty2 April 30, 2010


“With every girl who goes, who came to get a dress, a piece of my daughter gets to go to prom.”

Before she took her own life in December 2009, Californian teenager Marissa McLeod had been collecting new and used dresses for proms and winter formals. She had wanted to give these frocks to young women who would otherwise be unable to afford them.

After Marissa died her mother, Melinda Shaw, was determined to continue her daughter’s good work with Marissa’s Closet. She planned to collect and distribute 700 dresses.

To date Melinda has collected more than 3,200 dresses – and distributed more than 1,000.

A great story in the Modesto Bee (a local newspaper) explains how it works:

Jen Brunell of Vallejo is raising the daughters of her best friend who died. Brunell couldn’t afford to buy prom dresses for all three girls. Then, another friend told her about Marissa’s Closet. Brunell brought the girls and two of their friends, including a child whose foster parents refused to buy her a prom dress and a girl whose family is on welfare.

“I loaded up the girls and came over,” she said. “They all found dresses. It was amazing. (Shaw) treated them all like princesses. It made a difference in all the girls.”

When they got back home to Vallejo, they began collecting dresses to donate to Marissa’s Closet, and they’ll be bringing them over soon.

“I like what it brought out in the girls,” Brunell said. “I like the spirit it brought out in them.”

Girls from Sacramento, Merced, the Livermore Valley and even Daly City near San Francisco came and found their prom dresses — free — at Marissa’s Closet, Shaw said.

She and staff also shipped 600 dresses overseas through an organization called Assist International. The dresses will be used to help women in developing countries create their own stores as a way of supporting themselves.

If you are an American reader (or if you will post overseas), can you help? The charity currently operates out of a former chemist’s shop, but Melinda hopes to open a Marissa’s Closet in every state.
Melinda writes:

Marissa’s Closet is a year round charity collecting all types, styles, and sizes of new or used formal dresses. Donations of accessories such as shoes, handbags, and jewelry are also welcome. The charity would also appreciate donated hangers and clothes racks for the storage of donated items until they are distributed.

For further information and address details, visit the Marissa’s Closet website.

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