KERN COUNTY, Calif. — When Emily Woods heard some girls in Kern County didn’t go to prom because they couldn’t afford a dress, she wanted to help.
"I just hate the idea of parents struggling or kids not being able to attend," she said. "Prom is a huge high school milestone. You look back and you remember prom, and I would hate for it to be overshadowed by the expense of a dress. Something just so materialistic. You should be able to go, have a great time, look beautiful and enjoy yourself."
Emily owns the venue Wren’s Garden in Tehachapi. She’s using the indoor space right now to collect prom dresses.
She has about 40 so far and hopes to get more for a free luncheon shopping event in April.
“The girls can come, try on their dresses, have lunch and get the traditional shopping experience, so they’re not kind of just picking up a dress at a doorstop like, 'Oh, here's a free dress you can use,' so we wanted them to still have the full experience of picking out your prom dress," she said.
Emily said people have even offered hair and seamstress services.
She’s working with her sisters to get donations from Bakersfield, Tehachapi and even Ventura County.
“It’s amazing. We come from a very small town so we’re used to the community coming together and helping one another, but to see it kind of on a larger scale of multiple communities coming together, has been really awesome," she said.
The April event will be completely free and open to all Kern County students.
Emily said she’ll announce the final number of dresses collected ahead of time.
“I hope they just look back and realize, '[Someone] did something kind to me. Let me do something kind forward,'" she said. "We all have something to give whether it's materialistic, financial or just even our time. We can all help one another and I hope they carry this forward.”
Emily said the donations go much further than you might think.
"It’s more than a dress," she said. "It’s a message that you want to help these people and we care about you.”
Emily is also hoping to create a free boutique filled with all types of clothes called Wren’s Closet, which will be completely donation-based.
To donate a dress, visit Wren's Garden Venue on Facebook or Instagram, or call 805-200-8895.