Kristin Bodendorfer considers herself a fairy godmother to teenagers in the Mahoning Valley — and she’s got the closet to prove it.
Bodendorfer, 43, of Poland, founded Diva Donations, a nonprofit organization with pending 501(c)3 status that offers a low-cost lending boutique of formal dresses, shoes and jewelry for local high-school students to wear to school dances.
“We did it privately before. I’d go to stores and find dresses for $5 or $10 on sale, and we’d keep them in case my daughter’s friends wanted to go to a dance but couldn’t afford to get a dress,” Bodendorfer said.
Bodendorfer’s oldest child, Amelia, 23, had 15 formal dresses from attending functions over the years, and when Amelia graduated, Bodendorfer, using social-media websites, asked if anyone needed the dresses or wanted to donate more.
In March, she began collecting more dresses, and used Pretty & Plus Shop in Struthers as a home base, but as the organization grew — adding 600 dresses with a donation from Fashion Forward in Lisbon — the need for its own space became apparent. This week, Diva Donations moved into the North Lima Business Complex, the former South Range Elementary School, on state Route 164.
Bodendorfer said the organization is important because dances are “a rite of passage that’s been around forever.”
A Diva’s volunteer, Debbi Pritchard of Austintown, agreed.
“It’s not just a dance if you think about it. It’s now become like a wedding, a big life event,” Pritchard said.
Many of the dresses, which range in size from 0 to 28, still have the tags on them and retail for hundreds of dollars. Bodendorfer is taking appointments for homecoming dances on Sundays this month and already has 25 booked.
“It’s more personal, and I get to spend the time with them to pick out their dress,” Bodendorfer said.
Teens who want to borrow are asked to provide a $25 deposit, if possible. When the dress is returned in good condition, Diva Donations gives $15 back to the girl and keeps $10 to help with expenses such as rent and purchasing supplies, including clothing racks and mirrors, Bodendorfer said.
Bodendorfer and Pritchard said they are working to organize fundraisers. One pilot program is offering “Princess Parties,” during which a parent or guardian spends $50 to rent the closet — dresses, shoes and jewelry — for four hours to be used at a party.
Bodendorfer also wants to have a fashion show in the spring.
“It’s the community helping the community. We want to have a big reach,” Bodendorfer said.
She added that many businesses have already helped, including Something Unique Florist in Austintown, which offers $10 corsages for girls who get their dresses at Diva Donations.
“We always need volunteers, dresses, racks, inexpensive and costume jewelry, and we’re looking for a dry cleaner,” Bodendorfer said.
To set up an appointment, offer donations or ask questions, visit DivaDonations.com, click on “Contact Us” and provide the required information.