Lakeside High School senior Brianna Murphy has spent years in social and ballroom dance classes partly because she likes dressing up in formal gowns.
"I've always enjoyed it," said Murphy, 17. "You are presenting the best part of yourself."
So Murphy decided to translate her passion for formal wear into a senior project aimed at making the prom or other spring formal events possible for other high school girls.
She started Formally Yours, an organization that collects dresses, shoes, jewelry and accessories to be distributed to high school girls who can't afford those things.
Prom is often a highlight of a teen girls' high school career, and Murphy said it troubled her to learn some girls don't attend because they can't afford a dress. She wanted to offer those girls the opportunity to feel pretty and enjoy their prom.
"My first thought was Richmond County (girls) for sure," Murphy said. "The more I thought about it, the more I saw the need in Columbia County also."
Murphy said she has a friend whose parents don't allow her to work, but they also refuse to buy her a prom dress because "they don't see the need."
Murphy, who owns several formal gowns, knows that most women have one or two hanging in the back of their closets. And formal gowns often are like wedding dresses -- worn once.
So Murphy is asking those women to donate the dresses they'll never use again.
"We'll take what we can get, because someone may want it," Murphy said, adding she's asking for gently used dresses, preferably those that are in relatively up-to-date styles.
So far, Murphy has collected more than 30 dresses. She and her mother, Sheri, scour yard sales and accept donations.
"I'm very shocked. People seem to just willingly hand them over," Murphy said.
"There was one house that gave us seven dresses, on the spot."
Dresses and accessories will be accepted through the end of the year. On Feb. 6, Murphy will hold an open house at her church, Crossbridge Baptist on Skinner Mill Road in Augusta for girls in need to pick out a dress or accessories free of charge.
"If you are in high school and you need it, come for it," Murphy said. "We're just going to ask that they bring something to show they are still in high school."
Donations can be dropped off at the three Columbia County Tudor's Cleaners locations, which volunteered to clean the dresses for free, Coach Dave's Barber and Beauty Shop in Harlem and at Lakeside High School.
Murphy said she would like to take advantage of the rivalry among county high schools and challenge them to donate the most dresses.
"See who can bring in the most," Murphy said, adding that AlphaGraphics in Martinez donated fliers to post in the schools. "Evans, Lakeside, Greenbrier, when we get competing, we're going to compete and see who can do the best they can."
Murphy said she started Formally Yours for her senior project, but hopes it becomes an annual outreach event.
"I'm hoping to carry this on," Murphy said. "I'm waiting to see how it turns out to see whether or not I do it next year and keep it going. ... This is the hardest part, just getting it started."
For information, contact Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Lakeside High at (706) 863-0027.
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