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Free prom gowns available at Ronda’s Closet

By Clint Thomas, Metro Reporter
In this file photo, Julia Black shows Capital High School student Maria Goodyear dresses at Ronda’s Closet, located at Aldersgate United Methodist Church on W.Va. 21, north of Sissonville High School.

A virtual rite of spring for decades now, prom season will be returning to area high schools in coming weeks.

While the prospect of Prom Night can create excitement and anticipation for teenagers hoping and planning to attend, it can also be a source of anxiety for families who may be financially pressed to afford gowns for their daughters for the popular social event.

A solution -- along with a variety of new and gently used dresses -- can be found again this year at Ronda’s Closet in Sissonville.

From 3 until 5 p.m. every Sunday through prom season, Ronda’s Closet will be open for girls and their families to browse, try on and acquire a gown for prom, at no charge.

While there are no questions asked or income guidelines to be met to obtain a gown, there is a “pay-it-forward” component to the program. Girls are requested to return the dresses following their proms, to be cleaned and made available for others to wear at future proms.

Ronda’s Closet is also seeking donations of gowns, with an especial need for larger sizes, to distribute this prom season. “We really need the bigger sizes, from sizes 20 to 30,” said Julia Black of Romance, Jackson County, who founded Ronda’s Closet and still oversees and runs the program. “When those girls can’t find a dress in their size, it’s just awful.

“Along with the donations of new or gently worn dresses, we’ll take shoes. A lot of girls get a pair of shoes to go with their dress. That seems to make them really happy, too, because that’s another cost they don’t have to worry about. We also take and have jewelry,” she said.

Black said monetary donations are also welcome, for ancillary expenses such as dry cleaning and prom hairstyle appointments.

Ronda’s Closet is located inside Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 6823 Sissonville Drive in Charleston, along U.S. 21, near the 7-Eleven convenience store.

Black founded Ronda’s Closet in 2005, with the blessing and encouragement of Aldergate UMC’s minister. It was named in memory of Charleston resident Ronda Jones Howard, a friend of Black’s who died of breast cancer the year before, at the age of 44.

“I wanted to do this, because there’s probably a need for it in the Sissonville community,” Black, a member of Aldersgate UMC, said a few months after opening, “and I wanted to do this for my friend, who was just a beautiful lady. She was as pretty on the inside as she was on the outside.”

Since its inception, Ronda’s Closet has provided prom attire for more than 600 young ladies in Kanawha, Putnam and surrounding counties and other states. Last year, nearly 130 gowns were provided to girls in the area through Ronda’s Closet.

“The closet is open to anybody,” Black said. “We’re had people who’ve come from Braxton County, Ohio, Virginia, from all over. It’s really expanded.”

Black added that Charleston Job Corps Center students have also availed themselves of the Ronda’s Closet wardrobe for CJCC spring and summer functions, in past years.

“Our motto is, we’re just trying to be a good fairy godmother for whoever needs a dress,” she said.

She also thanked Gardner’s Dry Cleaning and Laundry in Charleston for its help in making Ronda’s Closet a success for more than a decade. “Gardner’s takes the dresses and stores them all year. If I didn’t have them doing that, I wouldn’t have anywhere to put the dresses for the rest of the year.”

For more information about the gown program or donating to Ronda’s Closet, contact Julia Black at 304-389-4604.


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