The Marne Community and Spouses’ Club (MCSC) recently opened a shop that will hand out free formal wear to military and dependent ID card holders.
The shop, which is inside the Marne Community and Activity Center, 54 Coe Ave., is part of a national, military-spouse-run, non-profit organization called Operation: Deploy Your Dress (ODYD).
Visitors to the shop may select one gown or suit and one accessory (purse, shoes or jewelry) per year to keep. Benefactors have already donated hundreds of dresses and accessories. The shop will soon begin offering suits and tuxedos for male spouses or separating service members who need a new suit for job interviews.
“The value of this project is literally thousands of dollars of formal wear that will be given to the Marne community at no cost,” said MCSC President Michelle Guran. “It’s yet another way that MCSC can provide support to our spouses and family members for years to come. Having ODYD will make attending military events a reality for some that couldn’t afford it otherwise.”
Operation: Deploy Your Dress started in December 2015 at Ft. Bliss, Texas when a group of five military spouses hosted an event to help their unit spouses find affordable formal wear for a military ball. The event quickly gathered momentum, received national media attention and through the overwhelming generosity of the American public has received more than 10,000 dresses and given away more than 5,000 dresses to date. ODYD estimates they have saved service members and their families more than $500,000.
The Marne shop is the sixth nationwide and the second in Georgia. Other locations include Ft. Benning, which opened in September, Ft. Bliss, Texas, Ft. Eustis, Va., Ft. Irwin, Calif., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“We are so excited to be here in the Marne community,” said ODYD Co-founder Yvonne Coombes. “We strive to build community through our organization and to see the success of how the program has been supported since the onset in this community, we’re excited to see how it’s going to grow throughout the years.”
Many military and community partners played a role from conception to opening day. The Landings Military Family Relief Fund provided the original funding for the shop. Garrison Command provided the building and MCSC and the Third Infantry Division spouses promoted the shop. Recently the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) joined forces with ODYD and have lent their support as well.
“I’m thankful for what the Landings and everyone else did to help us open this shop,” said ODYD Chair Kari Novak. “I think it’s going to be great and I can’t wait to hand out dresses.”
Novak and her volunteers created a boutique feel in the shop with custom racks, shoe and jewelry displays, full-length mirrors, artwork and custom lighting. At the grand opening Coombes commented that the shop set the bar for all future ODYD locations.
The shop is accepting donations of new or gently used formal wear including ball gowns, cocktail dresses, suits, tuxedos, shoes, jewelry and purses. The shop also needs hangers, preferably black.
The shop will be open from 12:30-2:30 p.m. every Wednesday and by request for Family Readiness Groups or coffee groups. The shop will also open one Saturday or evening a month. The club will host a prom event from 1-4 p.m. on March 17.