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Making an Impact in Your Community

It’s no secret that volunteering and giving back to your community comes with an array of benefits. Some are personal, such as a mood boost that makes you feel good. It also provides a sense of purpose, reduces stress and enhances a sense of belonging within your community.

But doing what you can to help your neighbors also benefits your salon by elevating your reputation within the community. It allows you to build diverse relationships outside of the wedding industry, provides positive press, and engages your staff (who also enjoy the personal benefits mentioned above).

So what can you do to make an impact in your community? Below are stories of five bridal retailers finding joy through giving back. Hopefully, they will serve as inspiration to start your own initiatives to help others.

 

Evey Lynn Bridal - Kirksville, Mo.


 

Four years ago, Evey Lynn Bridal owner Stephanie Ahrens-Mills was working late during prom season. A young lady was trying on a beautiful yellow prom gown, all smiles, so Ahrens-Mills offered to take her picture to send to her mother.

“Her mood immediately changed, and she ran into the dressing room to change,” she says. “I was so angry with myself.” The young lady came out and sat down to wait for a friend. Ahrens-Mills joined her and apologized for her comment.

“She started crying, and said her mom would never see the dress because she was in prison and she was in foster care,” she says.

The young lady went on, explaining her foster parents couldn’t afford the dress and she also couldn’t go because her younger twin brothers hadn’t been away from her for long periods of time since entering foster care.

“It was clear this young woman had the weight of the entire world on her shoulders,” she says. “I just sat next to her and waited with her, knowing I was going to help the best I could.”

That help came in the form of a new nonprofit called Fairy Godmother, which Ahrens-Mills created to help girls in foster care or financial need obtain formalwear for school events, including scholarship interviews.

“I teamed up with our local social workers, school counselors and churches,” she says. “That was four years ago, and we now span 17 counties in Northeast Missouri.”

After filling out a referral form and having it approved, girls can come to Evey Lynn Bridal and pick out any dress they want along with shoes and accessories.

“All the dresses are brand-new prom gowns, never altered, along with the experience,” she says. “These girls feel like Cinderella when they leave the boutique. It’s quite amazing!”

Ahrens-Mills is quite clear that she is not operating this nonprofit as a way to boost business. In fact, just the opposite.

“I try to keep them very separate,” she says. “I just want every girl to know there’s someone in their corner, fighting for them, cheering them on and willing to be their fairy godmother. That’s the real benefit, knowing these girls have a chance to make a happy memory.”

For more information, visit www.mofairygodmother.org.

 

Facchianos Bridal and Formal Attire - Broken Arrow, Okla.


 

Three years ago, Jennifer Thompson, owner of Facchianos Bridal and Formal Attire, came across “Night to Shine,” an annual prom night by The Tim Tebow Foundation held for people with special needs ages 14 and older. Thompson immediately knew she wanted to be involved.

“I have always had a special place in my heart for special needs because when I gave birth to my daughter, they told me she may have Down syndrome,” she says. “I had to wait seven days to find out the results.”

It turns out her daughter was misdiagnosed, but Thompson never forgot how that week made her feel, pre-planning her daughter’s life with things she may or may not be able to do. Now, through Night to Shine, she makes sure no one misses out on a great prom experience.

“We donate prom dresses and give a special price on tuxedos,” Thompson says. “My whole staff and I all participate as buddies (escorts), and they all know us there and see us in the community and remember us.”

Even Thompson’s daughter gets involved. While in elementary school, she met a young boy with Down syndrome in her class. Thompson told her daughter she could go to prom with him when he was in high school. In 2017, that moment came when both students were high school seniors.

“He came to get a tuxedo for the Night to Shine, and my daughter was his buddy for the prom,” Thompson says.

Since becoming involved with Night to Shine, Thompson says she has built a relationship with all of the attendees and the church members who participate as well as the caretakers for the attendees.

“We love doing something great for the community,” she says. “It makes all of us feel so great to help them to have the best prom night ever!”

For more information on Night to Shine, visit www.timtebowfoundation.org/ministries/night-to-shine.

 

Madeleine’s Daughter - Portsmouth, N.H.


 

After 40 years in the bridal retail business, the staff at Madeleine’s Daughter started focusing on giving back in 2015.

“I think we had always had some involvement in giving back to the community through volunteering and through donations, but, in 2015, we decided to make it part of our company culture and mission statement,” says Renee Habashy, assistant store manager. “After being in business for 40 years, we reflected a lot on why we do certain things and what we could do better.”

That year the store partnered with My Breast Cancer Support, a charity focused on providing practical support to seacoast residents currently living with and undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

“For the last several years, we’ve donated a portion of our sales to them,” Habashy says. “They have been amazing, and we’ve continued that partnership ever since.”

However, staff didn’t stop there. They started seeking out new avenues for helping out and giving back in their community. Last year, Madeleine’s Daughter added the Child Advocacy Center as another local charity it supports by donating a portion of sales.

Two years ago, the store designated its three most popular bridal accessories as its “Pretty with Purpose” collection. A portion of the sales for all three pieces went to the above-mentioned charities last year; for 2019, those donations will benefit the Cocheco Valley Humane Society, Northeast Passage and the Spina Bifida Association of Greater New England.

When it comes to impacting business, Habashy says the main impact has been cultural.

“Our staff volunteer together for events, and are involved in choosing which organizations we donate to each year so the causes and charities are very near and dear to our hearts,” she says.

For example, one of the store’s stylists, Kristin, is a member of the Spina Bifida Association of Greater New England, and she volunteers for many of their events.

“Recently, several of our employees volunteered for an event of theirs called ‘Bling,’ where we donated gowns from our inventory for the participants to wear and keep,” Habashy says. “Those employees also volunteered to style hair and makeup for those participants as well.”

For more information on these charities, visit:

 

Bridal Elegance - Grand Rapids, Mich.


 

Last fall, Bridal Elegance launched an initiative to make a difference in its community each month by working with different charities in the area.

“For many years, we tried to make a difference, but now we wanted to be more intentional about it,” owner Kirstin Carlson says. “We decided to pick a different charity cause or event each month to get our employees involved.”

In November, the store made a turkey donation to a local charity for every dress sold. For December, it partnered with the MIX 95.7 Connie and Fish Christmas Kids 2018 Toy Drive as an official drop-off location while also donating a toy with every bridal gown purchase.

Bridal Elegance staff took their giving spirit outside the store in January by performing random acts of kindness around town.

“It can be really blah here during the winter, and we wanted to give the staff a boost,” Carlson says. “That felt really good.”

Carlson put a video on the store Facebook page explaining their January mission, seeking ideas from followers as well as challenging them to perform their own random acts of kindness. During the month, the Bridal Elegance staff’s kindness acts included paying for customers’ purchases at a local baby supply store as well as paying for meals for drive-thru customers at a local fast-food restaurant.

For February, the store staff volunteered at a local food pantry, and, in March, Bridal Elegance donated dresses to local theaters for their wardrobe department. Any theater, from schools to local performing arts centers, were invited to select dresses from more than 250 social and bridal gowns. Nearly 100 gowns in total were donated.

Going forward, Carlson says they have lots of ideas of what to do for the rest of the year, but the challenge is figuring out how to implement them where it makes sense for the store and the cause.

“We’re definitely trying to do something every month, and I don’t anticipate stopping,” she says.

One thing Carlson knows for sure: Although the store’s bottom line may not be affected, staff certainly has been.

“It’s more of a cultural thing so far, but hopefully our customers will take notice,” Carlson says. “It feels good, and it makes my employees happy. We’re trying to do it because it’s the right thing to do, not to build business. But it is about both.”

 

Little White Dress Bridal Shop - Denver


 

Although new to making an impact on her community, Cate Carpenter, owner of Little White Dress Bridal Shop in Denver, has a firm plan of action. On April 1, the store began promoting one women’s cause or charity each month, along with requesting donations through the store’s social-media accounts and at the store.

“The business also will contribute financially each month,” Carpenter says.

Examples of the causes and charities the store will be featuring and assisting include Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, The Gathering Place in Denver and SafeHouse in Denver. However, Carpenter is not limiting their reach to local causes, but instead is looking to highlight and help both national and international organizations as well.

These range from the National Women’s Law Center and Global Fund for Women to UNIFEM (a female-focused United Nations agency) and Shadhika, an NGO supporting young women in India looking to escape child marriage in order to complete their education.

As evidenced by the groups’ names, Carpenter is invested in helping other women.

“Here at LWD, we are a family of women who celebrate love,” she says. “We support each other and invest in one another’s success in our daily endeavors to help other women feel heard and empowered during their shopping experience with us and to feel extra special and beautiful on their wedding day. We want to extend our empowerment of women by contributing to women’s causes and charities locally, nationally and internationally.”

Carpenter would love to see other retailers do the same.

“If other bridal shops did something similar, that would extend and enlarge the assistance to women’s causes even more,” she says.

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