The Belle of the Ball free dress loan program will host a donation drive Aug. 10, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., at the Base Theater, Building 441.
"Unfortunately some of the dresses in our inventory are a little dated which is why we like to have an annual dress drive to keep our inventory current," says Kay Zobrist, spouse of Col. Scott Zobrist, 388th Fighter Wing commander, and co-organizer of the dress loan program with Heather Higby, spouse of 75th Air Base Wing Commander Col. Patrick Higby.
"Styles change, so I don't think I'll be donating my bridesmaid's dress from that wedding in '95." adds Zobrist. "But dresses from this millennium would be perfect to donate."
The dress loan program will be accepting various donations throughout the day, from dresses to other miscellaneous items.
"We are accepting special occasion dresses in all sizes, short and long," says Zobrist. "The dresses should be in new or gently used, good condition. We don't have a seamstress so the dresses need to be ready to wear and not require repair.
"We occasionally have to pay for dresses to be cleaned, so monetary donations would be cheerfully accepted. We currently have three 10-foot long dress racks, but if someone had additional dress racks they needed to get rid of, a three-sided mirror or a riser stand, such as the ones used in a professional dress shop, we would certainly find a place for it."
"It would also be nice to own a permanent mannequin for future advertisements and dress drive displays," adds Higby. "A mannequin really gives a 3D impression of the program."
Fresh baked cookies will be provided to all donors during the donation drive, as well.
Zobrist and Higby are still in need of volunteers to help the day of the donation drive, as well as volunteers to help with the dress loan program throughout the year.
"If we had a cadre of volunteers to help we might be able to open up for regular hours before major base events like the Air Force Ball, graduations or the holiday party season," says Zobrist.
The Belle of the Ball program currently operates on an appointment basis.
"Just call me to set up a time to view and try on the dresses," says Zobrist. "There is a changing room and we have a full length mirror. We do have a limited number of shoes and purses also available for borrowing. The dresses come in all sizes and styles. If a woman finds something she wants to borrow, she fills out a form, giving a dress description, the approximate date of its return and her contact information."
If Zobrist and Higby get enough volunteers to operate the program on a regular schedule, they feel it would benefit the volunteers, the program users and the Air Force.
"Volunteering is a great way to pad your resume, you get a chance to meet new people, learn new skills and experience that great feeling of making a difference," says Zobrist. "I think programs like the Belle of the Ball are very important to morale and a sense of belonging on Air Force bases, although they are not funded by, nor sometimes even supported by, official Air Force agencies. These quality of life programs benefit a lot of people, both directly and indirectly. People who donate dresses or drop off donated dresses, volunteer for the program, donate other needed items, borrow dresses to attend functions and the people who are supported by their attendance all benefit directly. Indirectly we all benefit from increased productivity, and the general positive attitude generated by people doing good deeds. "
"Finances are tight in our economy now, and the idea of borrowing a nice dress as opposed to purchasing a new one is very inviting," adds Higby.
She recalled two women last fall who borrowed dresses for a wedding and "remarked that they were truly delighted not to have to pay the high prices of buying dresses, but only had to manage a small dry cleaning fee. They especifically appreciated that no one attending the event was aware that the dresses were borrowed. One even found shoes to go with her dress."
The Belle of the Ball dress loan closet is currently located in the back of the Base Theater, on the north side of the building, near the corner of 6th and E Streets. The program is available to anyone with base access, active duty, reserve, civilian and contractors. Family members may also accompany the user.
To set up an appointment to view dresses or to volunteer to help with the program or the donation drive, call Zobrist at (801) 525-8332.
"Spouses are asked to make lots of sacrifices with today's operations tempo," she adds. "If we can loan one woman a dress so that she can attend an (Airman Leadership School) graduation, the Air Force Ball, a friend's wedding or a night out to celebrate her anniversary, then the program is not only worthwhile but successful."