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In this March 4, 2017, photo, volunteers make minor alterations to prom dresses selected by Nieyia Buckhanon and other girls at Colonial Middle School during the annual Her Prom Closet event in Memphis, Tenn. (Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender via AP)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Every minute of every day in every week of every month in every year there is a tangible example of somebody or some group stepping up to help someone who needs a hand in the African-American community.

Yes, there are gaps in the fence, with children suffering because of the missing links. Often, however, someone moves to fill the gap, contributing mightily to a magnetic force that draws others to a cause.

Just such a scenario was on display March 4 at Colonial Middle School, where the non-profit organization Couture Cares hosted the 4th annual Her Prom Closet event for high school girls.

While the guarantee of free prom dresses, shoes and accessories was the day’s prize, Davina Jones, founder of Couture Cares, said, “There is a bigger picture to this. The overall thing is about giving back and blessing others. If somebody blesses you, then you need to be able to bless them.”

The earlier one learns that lesson the better, and so the girls who attended Saturday’s session were given the opportunity to respond in kind, if they could.

“One thing we had them do,” said Jones, “was if they were able to donate a pair shoes, they brought a pair of shoes in today and we are going to donate them to Haiti on behalf of our non-profit organization.”

Jones surveyed the flow of young women in the foyer of Colonial Middle School and offered an assessment.

“We’ve grown in numbers. Every year we go up in increments of 25. This year we are actually servicing a hundred girls. That’s from all SCS schools, along with charter schools in Memphis.”

For Jones, service means “giving back our time. We’re servicing the young ladies as for as dresses, shoes and accessories. Just making sure their prom evening is an evening to remember. .There are a lot of young ladies that we were not able to accommodate.

“The donations were great but we need more to be able to invite more young ladies. There are a lot of young ladies in Memphis that actually do not go to the prom because of the expense (that) parents just cannot afford.”

Nieyia Buckhanon, a Fairley High School senior, was helping out and receiving.

“My auntie is actually volunteering for this opportunity and she told my mama (that) it was going to be a great opportunity for me to come down here and help and show girls about prom dresses,” she said.

“This is very important because there are some girls out here who can’t afford a prom dress. .It’s a great opportunity for the young ladies to come down here and donate their dresses to help somebody else out. And the fact that they donated shoes (to Haiti) also is really good.”

She, too, was fitted the prom, which for her is downtown on May 13.

Bryana Terrell, a senior at Southaven High School, was locked in on getting a mermaid dress – fitted on top and flared at the bottom. The color did not matter.

“Dresses are very expensive she said. “This is a way to keep your costs down. This is a much cheaper route than spending like $500 on a dress for one night.”

Janice Tolbert said the women’s group at her church – First Baptist Church-Broad – had a campaign to supply dresses for donation.

“I grew up very poor and I never forget where I came from. I work with Shelby County Schools and I partnered with Davina (Jones) to get some students and then I took it to my church,” Tolbert said.

“I remember borrowing my teacher’s prom dress to wear to my prom. .She (my mom) didn’t have the money. We used to do this at our church several years for the kids at East High School. When I met Davina we just decided that I would partner with her.”

Later in the afternoon, Jesse Jones, Davina Jones’ father, stood alone near the entrance of the school. With a prompt, he recalled the proms of his two daughters.

“Dresses, hairdos and makeup, fingernails and everything,” he said, amounted to quite a bit.

A former principal in Mississippi, Jones said, “Even though the economy, they say, is picking up, a lot of times it doesn’t trickle down to us. …I dealt with free lunches. .You see people living off of three or four hundred dollars a month, $500 at the max and you’ve got four of five kids in the house. .

“When you get through with the light bill and all the other necessities there is no extra money for events and things like that.”

Shortly before Christmas, Jones was onboard as Couture Cares took its prom closet initiative to Coldwater, MS.

“This lady came up and she said, `You know I was just wondering how I was going to get my daughter a prom dress and God worked things out in a mysterious way that you all came down and did this prom drive.’ .

“This is something she (his daughter, Davina) has been very passionate about for the last four of five years,” Jones said.

“It gives me a great pleasure to see she is putting something back into the community that is worthwhile.”


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