High school senior Sharune Beck stepped into the Zonta Club Prom Boutique on Saturday with an idea of the kind of dress she was looking for, and with the help of "personal shoppers," she found the perfect one.
"It's just about the experience," Beck, 18, of Longview said of her senior prom. "I'm not really a prom person. I'm just looking because I kind of wanted something short, but then I didn't know about the color or anything like that."
Beck said she was happy to find a short, white prom dress with a pink waistband.
"It just seems like me, and it seems like something I would wear," Beck said. "I think events like these are important because if someone is having financial problems and they can come get a dress, then these types of things help when you're saving money for college and stuff."
The club's eighth annual Prom Boutique at First Baptist Church in Longview gave area high school girls the opportunity to try on and select a dress — for free — from a collection of about 2,000 donated ones
"It has grown in volume through word of mouth with just more girls coming," said Ashley Summers, co-chairwoman of the event. "We started out with about 25 girls that came to our very first one, and then last year we ended with about 250 girls. So, I think community awareness has changed and people are more aware that we do this, and it's not as hard to get the donations."
Newer dresses that are not selected are stored for the next prom boutique, Summers said. Older dresses that are not picked are donated to the Texas Shakespeare Festival, Artsview Children's Theater or Hope's Closet.
"This event changes lives," Summers said. "Zonta Club of Longview and Zonta International is about helping women and children. And for a young lady who's in high school, going to prom, there's nothing more important than being able to go and not having to sit home because they don't have a dress. So, this event aligns with our mission 100 percent."
In addition to the dresses, girls also could pick out accessories. High school seniors were also able to apply for a $1,000 scholarship, Summers said.
"If they keep their grades up, we follow them through their career. So each year, they get another $1,000 until they graduate," she said. "What we want is for these girls to walk away with the overall mission of Zonta and become Zontans after they graduate from school and know that these ladies are here for them even after they get done with school."