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Nonprofits Helping Moms Feel Beautiful in Detroit

As we mentioned last month in our newsletter, SHARE Detroit’s executive director Janette Philips made an incredible connection between two of our nonprofit partners: A Beautiful Me and A Girl Like Me. I was able to speak to Karen Palka of A Beautiful Me and Tyra Moore of A Girl Like Me to learn more about what led up to their meeting and what came of it.

A Girl Like Me is an organization that supports girls and young mothers aged 11-25 by providing resources, education, and mentoring. This year, they will be hosting their third annual free prom event for girls and women (ages 17-100!) who missed their prom due to pregnancy. Tyra started this event because she was in that very situation when she was in high school and found this was a common occurrence for teen mothers. Motherhood is a life changing event and Tyra summed up one of the unfortunate effects of teen motherhood: “It felt like they outcasted us because we had a child young–we couldn’t learn anymore; we couldn’t go to events.”

At A Girl Like Me’s prom, Tyra crowns all the moms to give them their moment to shine. With this act, she shows them that they are not less than for becoming a mother young. Prom is a major milestone, so this event reminds moms that it’s never too late to achieve a dream or accomplish a goal. Further, this intergenerational event gives moms a chance to connect with one another over their shared experiences.

Leading up to the prom, A Girl Like Me also hosts a “say yes to the dress” event. At this event, moms get the opportunity to try on and receive free dresses for prom. Unfortunately, Tyra lost all the dresses she collected due to water damage. She happened to already have a meeting scheduled with Janette where she explained this devastating loss and her search for new dresses.

Meanwhile, A Beautiful Me was in the process of reducing inventory and so was holding a sale of formal dresses for $5 each. The email announcing this sale made it to Janette’s inbox and Janette passed it along to Tyra. Tyra also received a $100 donation via SHARE Detroit and so was ready to put that money to work! Tyra and her husband made the 45-minute drive to Port Huron to buy dresses for A Girl Like Me’s upcoming prom.

While at the A Beautiful Me store, Tyra and her husband spoke with Karen about A Girl Like Me and what happened with the dresses. Once the sale ended with more inventory left to move, Karen was still thinking about Tyra and her quest for more dresses. Karen told me that Tyra and her work with A Girl Like Me stuck out to her because through her actions, Karen could see that Tyra “put some skin in the game.” Karen is no stranger to working hard for her nonprofit and the girls she works with. Their shared dedication made Karen want to work with Tyra and Karen decided to donate 170 dresses to Tyra to support A Girl Like Me’s prom.

Listening to Tyra and Karen’s individual and intersecting stories, I was struck by their contrast and how they did, or did not, seek out dresses. 

A Beautiful Me works primarily as an after-school program to work with girls on their self-esteem and they operate their storefront to give high school girls business experience. The store came about after Karen received frequent dress donations that she did not know what to do with. Karen said people would ask to donate dresses because they knew she worked with girls even though A Beautiful Me’s focus was not on appearance. Once Karen began saying yes to the dresses, she only got more—enough for a whole resale store! A Beautiful Me began selling dresses with high school girls at the helm. 

While Karen once viewed her dress conundrum as potentially frivolous, that changed when A Beautiful Me sold their first dress. Their first dress went to a girl attending a daddy-daughter dance with a father who was not very present in the girl’s life. That dance–that dress–gave the girl a memory she can hold onto for the rest of her life. It was then that Karen understood the transformative power feeling outwardly beautiful can have on a girl’s internal self-esteem. 

Now, at A Beautiful Me’s store, the dressing rooms intentionally have small mirrors so that women cannot see themselves completely because, as Karen explains, “We talk ourselves out of things in those little dressing rooms.” When a customer tries on a dress at A Beautiful Me, they do not see their entire look until they step out of the dressing room and into a viewing area where they can take in their full splendor. Karen also stressed that when it comes to dresses, it does not matter the style, the color, if it is trendy or not: “If it fits your body right, it makes you stand taller.”

This was the same knowledge that led Tyra to begin hosting A Girl Like Me’s prom complete with free dresses and make-up and hair services. Tyra sees a shared value between A Girl Like Me and A Beautiful Me: “Making women feel beautiful and comfortable in their bodies.” Even though both organizations are dedicated to serving girls on multiple fronts by helping them develop knowledge and skills, Karen and Tyra recognize the impact a dress and a good reason to wear it can have on a woman’s life.

Karen told me what she values about SHARE Detroit is not only that it connects nonprofits with the public but that it also connects nonprofits with each other. Tyra agreed, indicating that in the future there could be opportunity for collaborations or a combined fundraiser for their organizations since they work with similar populations of young girls.

These two nonprofits exemplify SHARE Detroit’s mission of doing good and building community. We are so happy we had a hand in building a relationship between Karen and Tyra’s organizations and are looking forward to seeing moms shine in A Beautiful Me’s dresses at A Girl Like Me’s prom later this year!

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