Patricia Lankford vividly remembers the sacrifices she had to make in order to afford a prom dress during her senior year in high school.
“I was a teen mom at 13 years old, and I had to go to work to get my prom dress,” said the hazardous waste worker, who was born of a teen mom as well.
Taking the job meant giving up a nursing class, something that Lankford thinks about to this day.
After her own daughter went to the prom, Lankford said they were sitting looking at the dress and realized “somebody else needs a prom dress.” So in 2007, she joined forces with girl friend Jeanine Virgin and her daughter Asia as well as Paul Foster to put together a prom dress give-a-way.
“We put it together in just two weeks,” remarked Lankford still remembering the crazy rush to get everything in place. “We had more than 160 dresses with shoes and purses and accessories to match. We gave away 60 to 70 plus dresses, and the remainder we donated to another organization in Long Beach.”
Lankford and her crew took the dresses to Compton, Crenshaw and Venice high schools, and the one thing she had not counted on was the number of young men who came with their girls, asking about suits for themselves.
So this year, the prom dress give-away which will be held April 5 from noon to 5:30 p.m. at Rowley Recreation Center in Gardena (13220 S. Van Ness Ave.) will feature suits and accessories for males. And in 2008, the young people will walk away with more than prom clothing. College scholarship information will be provided to each student, as well as gift bags and raffle prizes.
The clothing, some used, but most new is donated to Lankford’s non-profit organization–Guidance to the Future–by those interested in helping young people. And in fact her Prom Dress Give Away is an extension of her organization’s mission.
“Our purpose is to equip low income women and children dealing with such issues as homelessness, domestic violence, incarceration, teen parenthood, with the necessary tools to lead productive lives,” Lankford said. Among the services her agency provides are assisting with housing, providing meals and clothing, teaching basic skills including G.E.D. training, and helping with higher education. There is also training on office machines and software applications as well as on the soft skills people need to obtain and keep jobs.
In order to make the program dress and suit give away a success, Lankford is looking for donations including storage space, clothing racks and suits for the boys. Donations should be sent to Guidance to the Future, P.O. Box 1273, Gardena, CA 90249 or you may call (562) 326-2459.