A high school junior in Indiana takes the initiative to hold prom dress drive

Clare Mangin says it would be 'awesome' to simply make one girl happy by giving her a prom dress. Clare's enthusiasm and attention to detail have impressed the school employee she's partnered with.

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/File
At a 2014 event in Los Angeles that gives prom dresses to more than 350 young women in the foster care system every year.

Prom season is approaching, and with it will come another round of lasting memories.

The king and queen. Maybe riding to the dance in a limousine. And, of course, the inevitable high school awkwardness that comes with figuring out the right hand placement and footwork when perennial slow jam "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston seeps out of the DJ's speaker setup.

But getting to be a part of the experience comes at a price. Dresses for the event can cost hundreds of dollars, and that doesn't include the cost of shoes and other accessories.

Some girls might miss out because they can't afford the attire.

Clare Mangin wants to fix that problem at Northeast Dubois High School in Dubois, Ind. She is a junior at the school and is spearheading a Northeast Dubois chapter of Becca's Closet, a nonprofit organization that helps collect and distribute prom dresses and accessories free of charge to students who might not be able to swing the normal price tag.

Her chapter is the first to open in Indiana.

"Prom dresses are really expensive," Mangin said. "It's kind of crazy how expensive the whole prom experience is. At our small school, it's a big deal. If I can just make one girl's prom night or make her happy by giving her a prom dress, that would be awesome."

Becca's Closet was set to collect formal dresses this past Saturday in the Dubois Middle School's multi-purpose room, and the plans are to send the dresses home with new owners sometime in February.

Mangin hopes to have a raffle on distribution day, with the winner getting a free pre-prom hairstyle, manicure and dinner thanks to community donations. Northeast Dubois' dance is April 8 at the Polo Room in nearby Jasper, Ind.

About a week before the official dress drive, Mangin estimated that family members had already donated about 15 dresses. She plans on donating any leftover dresses to girls attending other county schools' proms and beyond.

If all goes well this year, Mangin said she'd like to see the group have a county-wide presence during the 2017-18 school year.

She got the idea one day after church in December. Since then, she's partnered with Paige Mundy, the school corporation's social worker, to put up fliers in the community and help spread the word.

Mundy said she has had students approach her and inquire about community volunteer opportunities since she started working with the schools in 2011, but said this is the first big, student-led project she has overseen.

"Clare is just a special girl and has worked really hard," Mundy said. "She's thought of things that I wouldn't have even thought of, so I think it's great she took the initiative to do this. There are a lot of kids that I can reach out to and ask for help that wouldn't respond if I were to ask for it, but for her to come on her own and decide to do something like this is pretty special."

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