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Diva Days returns to THS

Nonprofit offers free dresses for homecoming and prom this weekend

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Michelle Woodworth, left, and Pam Engel have formed a nonprofit called Diva Days, which offers free dresses to girls for homecoming and prom. The next dress giveaway is this Saturday at Tigard High School.This time of year, Michelle Woodworth and Pam Engel are busier than ever.

“Oh, this one’s pretty,” said Woodworth, pulling out a long blue gown from a clothes rack at Tigard High School. “This is like my daughter’s dress.”

The two Tigard mothers are getting ready for this weekend’s Diva Days, the twice-yearly event that transforms the school into a fashion boutique, ready to get girls across the district ready for the upcoming homecoming dance in October.

Organizers will have 1,000 dresses of all sizes and styles on display for girls to take home — all for free.

It’s a chance for girls of all incomes to be able to afford that perfect dress for the big dance, Woodworth said.

“The pocketbook of sending kids to prom is sky high,” Woodworth said.

Families on fixed incomes often can’t afford dresses for school dances.

“One girl last year was trying on dresses and she asked us, ‘How much does this cost?’ When we said it was free, she said, ‘What do you mean its free?’ She was so grateful to have a dress like that.”

It seems like a small gesture, Engel said, but being able to attend high school functions such as school dances has a big impact on students’ lives.

“We tell girls, instead of going over to your girlfriend’s and raiding her closet for her three dresses, they can come here. We have 1,000,” Woodworth said.

Check it out

What: Diva Days homecoming dress boutique

Where: Tigard High School, 9000 S.W. Durham Road

When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13

How much: All dresses and other items are free

Room for everyone

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The organization has about 1,000 dresses in stock and is always looking for more. Donations can be made at the Tigard High School front office.This is the fifth year of Diva Days, and there are no signs of the effort slowing down.

“It has been fantastic,” Woodworth said. “It has definitely been our baby, and that’s a good thing.”

Diva Days are held before the homecoming dance in the fall and prom in the spring, Engel said.

The dresses are donated from community members throughout the school year.

The nonprofit group also provides girls with shoes, handbags, makeup, jewelry and other items to complete the ensemble.

“When we get those kinds of donations, they are gone right away,” Woodworth said. “Especially jewelry.”

Woodworth said it’s all about having fun.

“Go ahead, try on the dress that your mom won’t ever let you wear, or the beauty queen pageant dress,” Woodworth said. “It’s all about being a diva for the day.”

Tigard’s event isn’t limited to Tigard High School students, Engel said.

“Anybody in the community can come,” Woodworth said.

At last year’s event, students from Astoria High in town for a speech-and-debate match were able to try on dresses for their dances back home.

“That’s what we want,” Woodworth said. “It’s open to anyone.”

The whole point, Woodworth said, is to give your old dress another chance to dance.

Got a spare dress?

Interested in donating a dress?

Donations can be dropped off at the Tigard High School main office, during regular business hours.

“We always need more dresses and we need to let the community know that we’re here,” Michelle Woodworth said.

The organization is also in need of additional racks to hold dresses, and cash donations to handle cleaning fees.

Serving a need

The school’s parent-student organization started the event five years ago after parents learned girls were staying home from prom and other dances because they could not afford dresses.

“We realized that there is a lot bigger need here than we had realized,” Woodworth said. “Girls need something on the Westside.”

It’s a similar program to the well-known West Linn-based nonprofit, Abbey’s Closet, which has been helping teenaged girls find prom dresses since 2004.

Diva Days takes that idea and makes it more accessible for Tigard-area students, Woodworth said.

“A lot of girls on the Westside aren’t able to go to Abbey’s Closet events,” Woodworth said. “For some, it’s transportation issues, but there are a myriad of things stopping them from going there.”

About 70 girls found dresses during the local fall event last school year, and about 50 prom dresses were given away last spring, Woodworth said.

Those numbers are small, but Woodworth said she has big plans for the organization.

“The more this grows, the more girls will take dresses,” Woodworth added. “The more the public knows that we have beautiful dresses, the more people walk in the door.”

In the future, Woodworth said she wants to get more options for male students as well.

“We want to branch out and connect with tuxedo shops for boys,” Woodworth said. “Maybe do either discounted rentals or work with shops to get tuxes because those are equally expensive.”

Woodworth and Engel’s children will graduate in the next few years, but both said they don’t plan to step down from organizing Diva Days.

“We feel strongly enough about this that we want to continue this even after our kids graduate,” Woodworth said. “I have done a ton of volunteering in the district over the years. I’m a serial volunteerer, and this is by far the most rewarding thing I’ve done. It is truly giving back to the community. This is a fun event.”

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