I first learned about Cinderella’s Closet several years ago while living in the area.
A close friend told me about the organization and later volunteered and loved it. Unfortunately, the dates never seemed to work with my schedule and I tucked away the idea to check it out in the back of my mind.
A few Saturdays ago, I finally got to witness a small snapshot of what this amazing organization does to make every girl who walks through the door to feel like a princess. The volunteer positions were all filled and Erin graciously let me come and observe to help share what they are doing.
I found myself fighting back tears several times as I observed the event unfolding.
The girls were treated like princesses from the moment they arrived.
They were also given dignity and shown love. Each girl gets a personal shopper otherwise known as her fairy godmother who is there to guide her through the shopping experience and give undivided attention to make her feel special.
The fairy godmother helps the princess select a dress. Sometimes a princess could try on dozens of dresses in the dressing room before finding “the one.”
Next, they select shoes. There are shoe attendants who bring out 3 selections of her shoe size to choose from until she finds “the one.”
Next, each girl can select three pieces of jewelry. They are presented with different options from another volunteer on serving trays.
The princess can then go to alterations if she needs any minor adjustments to the dress.
After her selections, the princess can enjoy refreshments while her fairy godmother slips away to write a personal note and selects a purse for her princess as she waits for her dress to be steamed and her accessories to be bagged.
Each volunteer had a story of why Cinderella’s Closet meant so much to them.
Some were there because a friend had volunteered and encouraged them to join them after an amazing experience.
I met a volunteer named Angela, (bottom left in pic) who was head fairly godmother and was there because her daughter was reluctantly a recipient one year and after her daughter’s experience of feeling so special she wanted to volunteer.
Her daughter tragically lost her life in a car accident a year later and her mother now volunteers and organizes an annual fundraiser named the Katy Shell Memorial Fundraiser for Cinderella’s Closet to honor her legacy and to help continue making girls feel as special as her daughter did that day.
I asked Erin Peterson, the founder, a few questions so that we could hear her heart on why Cinderella’s Closet is so important to her.
Why did you start Cinderella’s Closet?
It began in 2006 when I overheard a girl in a consignment shop talking about a beautiful turquoise prom dress that she wanted but could not afford. I heard her ask the sales lady if she could hold the dress until she spoke to her foster mother.
I didn’t even see her or the dress, but I knew she was dreaming of it and I could make that dream come true. I didn’t know how much it would cost when I offered to buy the dress, but it turned out to be $39.95. It’s the best money I have ever spent.
As she walked out of the of the store, she told me she would look just like “Cinderella”.
That afternoon I prayed and told God that if he could use me again to do his work, then to please let me notice.
I thought I would get some of my friends together and we would take a couple of girls shopping and give them a “big day”. Little did I know that God had other plans.
I was in the consignment store in October 2006, in March 2007 Cinderella’s Closet became a ministry of Immanuel United Methodist Church and we had 1,500 dresses and served 115 girls.
Each year after that we have served nearly 450 girls per year in 13 counties in Kentucky. There are now Cinderella’s Closet ministries in Cincinnati, Frankfort, Lexington and in 10 other churches throughout the country based on the model and ministry developed in Northern Kentucky.
What was an obstacle that you had to overcome when you started Cinderella’s Closet?
I think one of our largest logistical obstacles was that I didn’t consider that Cinderella’s Closet would cost any money.
I was very naive, I thought people would donate the dresses and we would give them away. For some reason, it didn’t cross my mind that we would need things like dress racks, mirrors, dressing rooms, etc.
It also never entered my mind that we would ever need to purchase items to give away like plus size dresses, shoes, and jewelry.
All of those items are never donated in the quantities required. We were so poor in fact during our first several years, that my husband once gave me nearly $1,000 in small bills for valentines day.
He had eaten peanut butter and jelly for lunch for 6 months and saved the money his lunch would have cost. He didn’t tell me but surprised me on Valentines Day.
I remember asking him why all of the bills were so small (like fives and tens), he said that he didn’t want me to notice he was saving the money. He wanted me to know that he had been thinking of me and this ministry since the summer.
I think it was the sweetest and most thoughtful gift he has ever given me.
What have been some of your favorite responses so far?
Wow! So many. Every girl that visits us has a story, but I’ll share one of my favorites from this year.
I was walking out of our dressing room and I saw a very excited almost “giddy” princess. She was standing behind her Fairy Godmother because she didn’t want her foster mother to see her until she made an “entrance”.
So I asked her if she wanted to be introduced. She responded with “Princess Stacy, please”. So that’s what I did I walked out to the waiting room and announced “Princess Stacy” to the cheers of the other mothers waiting.
Everyone clapped and smiled as “Princess Stacy” walked the room and twirled. That is what it is all about for us, not the dress, not the jewelry, but giving the young ladies that visit us an unforgettable experience, unlike any other they have ever had.
Dresses are fun and fancy, but showing girls that they are loved and cherished is our only goal.
How has Cinderellas’ Closet changed you?
It has humbled me, each and every day that I think about it or work on it.
I feel so blessed that I would be allowed to do a bit of God’s work here on earth and to be able to show His love in a powerful and tangible way.
Each day I thank God for the opportunity to serve others in His name.
What are your dreams for Cinderella’s Closet in the future?
I don’t think about the future because my ideas have always been less than God’s. I would have never dreamed Cinderella’s Closet would be what it is today, it is quite overwhelming for me.
We will continue to do our very best to serve the girls that dance through our doors and will continue to help others do the same.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a non-profit?
I think my biggest piece of advice would be to find a mentor that has done it before. It makes the learning curve so much lower.
It is always important to learn from those that have been in your shoes before.
What are your biggest needs for Cinderella’s Closet?
All Fancy Prom Dresses Short or Long in all sizes. Our most needed size is 14 and plus size dresses (16-32) are always in short supply.
Formal Shoes – Any size
Formal Jewelry – It is never donated in the quantity required. In order to serve 450 girls, we need nearly 2,000 pieces of jewelry per year.
Formal Purses – We would love to be able to give a purse to each girl that visits us
What are some ways that someone can someone help Cinderella’s Closet?
-Volunteer to be a Fairy Godmother at our giveaway events. You can also get the link via our website at www.cinderellasclosetusa.org
-Support our annual Spring Boxed Lunch Sale
– Be a Glass Slipper Sponsor – each year we ask folks to be a Glass Slipper Sponsor and purchase three accessory items that are needed for our event and are not normally donated.
We need about 250 Glass Slipper Sponsors per year to meet our needs.
To find out more information about being an individual sponsor or to have a Glass Slipper Display for your work, church, school, group, etc please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Can someone start a Cinderella’s Closet in their city?
Yes, we are pleased and honored to help those that want to start a Cinderella’s Closet ministry in their city.
We request that Cinderella’s Closets are geographically about 1.5 hours apart. We have found that is a good geographic reach and good use of resources.
Where can I drop off donations?
Northern Kentucky – The Goddard School
205 Grandview Drive
Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
Monday-Friday 7:00am to 6:00pm
Northern Kentucky – Aunt Kathy’s Childcare & Preschool
4 Hidden Valley Drive
Highland Heights, KY
Monday-Friday 6:30am to 6:00pm
Gallatin County – Gallatin County High School
70 Wildcat Circle
Youth Services Center – See Regina Danaher
Monday-Friday during school hours; closed for summer
Henry County – Henry County High School
1120 Eminance Road
New Castle, Kentucky
Youth Services Center – See Karen Wilson
Monday-Friday during school hours; closed for summer
Pendleton County – Pendleton County High School
2359 Old US Highway 27
Youth Services Center
Falmouth, Kentucky – See Kelly Staten
Monday-Friday during school hours; closed for summer
Southwest Ohio – Vineyard Cincinnati
11340 Century Circle E.
Healing Center, donation bins located on the right side of building
Label donations “Cinderella’s Closet”
Anytime Day or Night
Southwest Ohio – Center Pointe Christian Church
5962 Hamilton Mason Road
Liberty Township, Ohio
Monday-Thursday: 8am to 4pm
Friday: 8am to 12pm
Sunday: 8am to 1pm
Southwest Ohio – Amelia, Fischer Model Home
1210A Ohio Pike
Saturday-Wednesday 12:00pm to 6:00pm
See Kristie Patterson
You can help turn dresses into dreams!
Thanks again to Erin for sharing her heart and inspiring us to make a difference one life at a time!
Please email Cinderella’s Closet at: email@example.com for more information and details.
3 thoughts on “Turning Dresses into Dreams- An interview with the founder of Cinderella’s Closet”
Oh my, I didn’t think I was going to cry when I started reading this blog…but that is exactly what I did. What a fantastic organization, I feel so hopeful, when I hear these stories, that our neighbors truly do want to help each other. I will certainly share the information with my friends and family so that they can be aware of how to donate.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I am going to contact them about volunteering next year. This is a wonderful charity!
Katie- There is also an upcoming event in Ohio on April 12 & 13th. The deadline to register to volunteer is March 31st. Thanks for checking it out!