by Dennis Dalman
What started four years ago as a way to provide affordable prom dresses to young women has now expanded to include wedding outfits as well – and all for a very good cause.
One hundred percent from sales of the gently used dresses and formal gowns goes to the St. Cloud-based Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center.
“Prom It Forward” was started by Cindy Battleson, owner of the Rapids Alterations & Repair shop in Sauk Rapids. The name of the service is a variation of “Pay It Forward,” the practice of one good deed inspiring other good deeds. Battleson explained how the program works:
People are encouraged to donate gently used dresses in good condition to Rapids Alterations. Volunteers then spend hundreds of hours collecting, tagging, pricing and taking photos of the dresses to increase awareness of the program via Facebook, Instagram and on the Rapids Alterations website. Girls and women can then see and try on those dresses at that shop. The costs of the dresses are greatly reduced from their original prices and all can be purchased for anywhere from $10 to $300.
Besides prom dresses, the fundraising program now includes dresses and formal gowns that can be worn for weddings, charity balls, vacation cruises, dances, reunions and other events. At any given moment, Rapids Alterations has several hundred “Prom It Forward” dresses for sale.
People can also sponsor a dress so that when it is sold, the sponsorship funding can be given to area high-school counselors and the local Boys and Girls Club. Those funds are then given to school girls in financial need who can use the money to help pay for their own prom dresses.
Since “Prom It Forward” started in 2018, $35,000 has been raised and given to the local Boys & Girls Club.
“We get news out about ‘Prom It Forward’ on social media and by word-of-mouth,” Battleson said. “That way, we don’t have to spend any money on advertising, making it possible that every penny from the sales of the dresses goes to the sexual assault center.”
Anyone who wants to donate gently used dresses can bring them to Rapids Alterations at 621 Benton Drive, Suite 101, in Sauk Rapids. The phone number is 320-255-9083.
Those in need of a dress can visit that shop to view and try on the dresses.
“What we have now (in addition to prom outfits) are wedding dresses, formals and dresses for brides, bridesmaids, flower girls and mothers in a wedding,” Battleson said.
Rapids Alterations’ regular business hours are from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. In addition, the shop will be open from 9 a.m.-noon on the first Saturdays during the first four months of 2023 – Jan. 7, Feb. 4, March 4 and April 1.
The Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center is located in east St. Cloud.
In November 1976, a committee of women met at the St. Cloud Women’s Center to discuss the problem of rape in the St. Cloud area. After intensive studying, those women began to see the need for a rape crisis center to help victims of that crime and the victims’ families.
The center opened in June 1977. In 1984, the center began operating as an independent agency with a board of directors as its governing body.
The center offers free help for those who endured rape, other forms of sexual abuse and victims of sex trafficking. The services it offers are available to residents of the counties of Stearns, Benton, Sherburne and Wright.
The center’s phone number is 320-251-4357. Call that number to speak with an advocate. For time-sensitive concerns or questions, the center may be reached at [email protected]. Its crisis emergency call number is 1-800-656-4673.