Kenzie’s CLOSET Executive Director, Kathy Smith
A girl missing her fairytale prom shouldn’t come down to how much is in a family’s bank account. That’s the idea behind Kenzie’s CLOSET, a local non-profit founded in 2006 by Brynne Coletti.
“In that year, Brynne became aware of a student at her daughter’s school who couldn’t afford a prom outfit, and Brynne contacted the school to make arrangements so that the student’s prom outfit would be taken care of,” says Kenzie’s CLOSET Executive Director, Kathy Smith. “The following year, two students were not going to attend their senior prom and again Brynne made arrangements and the girls were able to attend their prom. The seed for Kenzie’s CLOSET was planted.”
Kenzie’s CLOSET is named in memory of a St. Ursula Academy student who was tragically killed in a car accident before she could attend her prom. The 501(c)(3) boutique, located in O’Bryonville, collaborates with high school social workers, guidance counselors, teachers and principals across the Greater Cincinnati area to provide a complete prom look for girls in financial need who are a junior or senior at an accredited school in Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana.
“Each year in January, we mail a packet to the school that outlines the process. Our contact at the school will then initiate the process by completing a referral form; the family will complete their section of the form, and submit the form to us,” Smith explains. “The prom must be a school sponsored event.”
Smith is the new Executive Director this year. She was brought on board to lead the organization to an even bigger and better future. Smith, a Seton alum, has vast experience in managing non-profits and has been a long-time supporter of Kenzie’s CLOSET, so taking on this new role was a perfect fit. In 2014, under Smith’s leadership, Kenzie’s CLOSET will invite 40 young ladies on each of their 16 shopping days scheduled. Once each girl arrives at the boutique on their designated shopping day they are matched up with their own personal shopper who offers them personalized care in picking out their prom attire. Included in each girls “prom package” is a prom dress, shoes, wrap, purse and jewelry at no cost to the student.
Kenzie’s CLOSET also provides volunteer seamstresses that will make any alterations that day on any dresses so that the students don’t have to make a second trip to the boutique. Kenzie’s CLOSET offers the girls involved dresses in size 0 to 5XL. “Before the girls leave, they have a photo taken in their complete prom outfit before a lovely pink background,” Smith says. “Each student leaves with her photo, her complete prom outfit, a pink rose, a smile and a forever memory.”
Kenzie’s CLOSET is supported by board members, adult and high school volunteers, donors, corporate sponsors. Between February and May, volunteers put in over 1,000 hours in order to provide over 2,500 young ladies with prom outfits. Through Ugive.org, a Cincinnati program that allows high school students to volunteer at non-profit agencies and receive credit for their community involvement, 561 hours were donated to Kenzie’s CLOSET by high school students last year. Besides simply volunteering to help with Kenzie’s CLOSET you can also help by donating your gently used dresses to any of the 3 Appearance Plus (sorts and cleans donations) locations in Cincinnati.
“Our volunteers make Kenzie’s CLOSET a success. Our donors and corporate sponsors are critical to keeping the organizations here and the dreams of our students alive,” Smith says. “We rely on 250 volunteers throughout our prom season ranging in age from 15 to 80. These women come from all walks of life, sharing the belief that every girl wants to look and feel beautiful.”
Kenzie’s Closet participated in the Volunteer Expo on Fountain Square this past September and dress drives at Mt. Notre Dame and St. Susanna’s. Additional organizations are planning dress drives to support the organization. Smith and the rest of the Kenzie’s CLOSET crew hope to find the funds and the volunteers to keep their mission alive so that eventually the boutique can move into a larger location. “Our work here is never finished. We don’t want to turn any girl away who needs our help,” Smith says.