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JustServe Helps Provide Prom Dresses and Life Skills to Foster Youth

Interfaith effort in California helps teenage girls in foster care get pampered for prom and prepared for job interviews

Donated prom dresses hang on racks inside the Thousand Oaks California Stake Center on March 16, 2022. Girls in foster care went “shopping” among the dresses and other items before prom in April. Photo by Shawna Driggs, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

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By Mary Richards, Church News

This April, teenage girls in foster care in Ventura, California, picked out a prom dress, had their makeup, nails and hair done and were pampered before the big dance. Others selected new clothes for job interviews and learned life and interviewing skills. 

The “Beautiful You” event, organized by the nonprofit James Storehouse, celebrated and supported the young women in ways they otherwise may not have had because of their circumstances.

The annual effort received new help this year after partnering with a local Women’s Interfaith Network (WIN) that used JustServe, a Church-sponsored online platform connecting community organizations with volunteers, to amplify the service opportunity. 

The Thousands Oaks California Stake Relief Society took the role of host for people to drop off the donations. More than 100 volunteers from six different faiths, three Latter-day Saint stakes, six wards with young women and missionaries helped collect, sort and pack items on March 16.

The volunteers collected 213 prom dresses, 136 spring dresses, 88 pairs of prom shoes, 54 pieces of jewelry, 30 purses, 32 pairs of dress pants, 36 sweaters, 19 business jackets, 116 business style skirts, 100-plus makeup kits including foundation, mascara, lipstick and eyeshadow, and 112 goodie bags with handwritten notes of encouragement.

Shawna Driggs, a JustServe coordinator from the Newbury Park California Stake, was touched in particular by the story of one of the volunteers who wrote notes for the goodie bags. The volunteer had been in foster care herself and wrote uplifting encouragement for the other girls. She also brought her own clothes to donate, saying the foster girls needed them more than she did.

Volunteers gather at the Thousand Oaks California Stake Center on March 16, 2022, to collect and sort donated dresses and other items for girls in foster care. Photo by Shawna Driggs, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

“James Storehouse could hardly believe what we were able to collect and donate,” said Driggs. “They are so grateful and know that the girls will be lifted by this support from the community.” 

James Storehouse posted on Facebook that one caregiver shared how special her girls felt with their new dresses and makeovers — they felt loved and seen, and most of all, they saw themselves as precious and beautiful.

Driggs and Angela Rockwood from the Thousand Oaks California Stake — along with several women from other faiths — started a Women’s Interfaith Network six years ago as a service arm of the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association. Driggs said the idea was that “if you bring women together, you bring families. And, if you bring families together, you bring communities.”

The network uses the platform of JustServe to bring different organizations and faith groups together in service, and the “Beautiful You” effort had an overwhelming response, said Driggs.

She said the event was a wonderful way to engage JustServe working groups in the area. Each faith advertised the JustServe project within its own congregation. 

“What an amazing experience to be involved in doing good together and so grateful for the tool of JustServe to help make that happen,” said Driggs. “As always, there is such a feeling of the Lord’s love and appreciation when we, His children, work together to help those in need.” 

Becca Hubble, a member of WIN and the Thousand Oaks Stake, commented: “It was heartwarming to see that most people who dropped off donations saw the amount of work needing to be done and willingly chose to stay and help even though they had not signed up to volunteer.” 

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