In 2003, Laura and her husband began training to be Foster Parents. One of the rooms at the county training facility was full of dresses and the teacher explained that a Social Worker gathered dresses to give to girls in foster care who otherwise might not go to Prom. Years later, this Prom Boutique was located at Woods Chapel UMC and grew over ten years to give away more than 1,000 dresses. Laura suggested to Carla that they volunteer to help and check it out. Carla is a professional journalist and intended to write an article about Woods Chapel’s ministry. Her article was published, and Carla began to envision a Prom Boutique at Central. The leadership of Woods Chapel's Annual Prom Boutique shared their dream of expanding to the urban-core (Woods Chapel UMC is located in Lee’s Summit, MO, a suburb of Kansas City, MO woodschapelchurch.org). Consideration was given to transportation ministry, offering rides to urban girls, but a decision was made to bring the dresses to the girls. Blessed Dress was created from this partnership and would be located at Central. The focus was on collecting and giving free prom dresses to local high school girls in a safe, convenient, loving environment. Rather than spending an extended period of time to plan and organize the first event, Laura & Carla jumped right in and with the help of another 100 volunteers, put Blessed Dress 2014 together in seven months.

Because Blessed Dress was a “fire-ready-aim” ministry start, many mistakes were borne out of enthusiasm and naivety. What works each year is kept, and what doesn't work is tweaked. The generous mentoring and loan of boutique equipment as well as dresses from the women of Woods Chapel was enormously helpful. The zealous partnership with Centennial UMC was extremely helpful in expanding cultural awareness.

As enthusiasm for this ministry spread, one church member got the word out to 1,200 nurses at The Children’s Mercy Hospital. Many dresses and volunteers came from that single initial connection. Bella Bridesmaid donated hundreds of dresses, and now donates dozens of dresses every few months (www.bellabridesmaids.com). Stephanie's Bridal Boutique (stephaniesbridalboutique.com) and Sincerely Susan became sponsors and generously have given 100s of gowns. Laura visited with counselors, teachers and principals at the local high schools to personally explain our ministry and invite them to send their students to the event. Carla made contact with local newspaper, radio and television personalities and posters were displayed at local high school area hang-outs. In the first year, it was anticipated that 200 dresses would be collected and 50 would be given away. More than 2,000 dresses were collected and 222 girls found one. It is not exaggerating to say that every single girl felt beautiful, special, and delighted with her dress. Dresses were steamed and bagged and girls left smiling and hugging their dress. Many brought donations the day of the event, or promised to return their dress the following year.

The event created generosity. The wider the word of Blessed Dress is spread, the more persons generously step forward. We have received 100s of dresses from individuals who shop online, at thrift stores, or discount sales at end of season, and countless others from strangers who hear about our project. A few times, a woman whose wedding was canceled last minute has donated her wedding and bridesmaid dresses. We keep a light-hearted environment with heavy use of the word “sparkly” so that it is fun and many are drawn to be a part of this ministry. We silently pray over each dress and for each girl on the day they shop.