LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – In 2004, Judy Wolff began the Beautiful Butterfly Project Prom to help those who can’t afford a dress for that special dance.
“I started with one rack and then people started hearing that I was giving dresses to girls that needed them,” Wolff explained. “And then the people were seeing and hearing that I was taking donations and it just grew and grew and grew.”
And now, Judy’s inventory reaches almost three-thousand dresses and the donations don’t seem to be slowing down.
For Alethia Kenworthy, being able to find an affordable dress is something the whole community needs and having a resource like Judy’s collection is very fortunate to have.
“It’s amazing what her program does for so many kids in the area,” Alethia said. “I know she has people who come from Eau Claire also, who drive to come to see her and to help her and also to give dresses to her too. Because once you heard about it, you’re thinking ‘How many things do I have in my closet that I don’t really need anymore either?’.”
That many dresses requires a lot of space to store them.
Judy has been keeping them in three large storage units but it hasn’t been an ideal location for helping ladies, young and old, find and try on dresses.
“I needed a new building because the storage unit was not heat controlled,” Judy said. “So in the winter time it was really cold and then when it gets a little bit warmer the cement sweats and it was getting all the dresses wet and moldy. I had to throw away quite a lot of them.”
Alethia came to the rescue after seeing Judy’s post asking for help on Facebook.
Kenworthy is managing the building formerly known as the Wesley United Methodist Church and most recently as The Sanctuary on King. Recently acquired by Matthew Curtis of Choral Tracks, it is currently being renovated into a venue for fine arts and other events.
Noticing some space not earmarked for venue purposes, Alethia wondered if Judy could use it for her dresses.
“We’re not going to utilize the basement as far as I know,” Kenworthy explained. “It’s not going to be a place for performing so I just kind of chatted with my boss and floated the idea and he thought it would be a great idea! Then it happened.”
Judy now has three big rooms to organize her dresses but at the rate she’s growing she may need more space, which is not something she’s looking for after receiving such a gift.
“No, we don’t want to outgrow this spot,” Judy said laughingly. “We’ll down size a little.”
Wolff, a WXOW Jefferson Award recipient, added that getting this new space now is perfect timing, because it will help her get ready for her next project.
She’s collaborating with Special Needs Dream Team and JCI La Crosse Jaycees to put on La Crosse’s first-ever Special Needs Fashion Show & Prom, which is coming up on June 12.
For more information on this upcoming event or Judy’s dresses check our her Beautiful Butterfly Project Prom page on Facebook.
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