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Marissa’s Closet bursting at seams

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Marissa’s Closet bursting at seams

Becca Barryman strikes a mime pose with a mannequin in the window of Marissa's Closet where prom dresses are offered free for the asking.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED April 18, 2010 3:13 a.m.
RIPON — Marissa’s prom dress closet was a bee hive of activity Saturday with more high school girls learning of the countless dresses on racks just waiting for them to walk through the door and take their pick.

While at least three proms were held Saturday night from Ripon to Ceres and Pleasanton, the crowd in the store was mostly from other areas where proms are scheduled in May.  The word had gotten around and those girls flocked into the former Ripon Drug building all day long.

Marissa’s mom Melinda Shaw said it was crazy with the onslaught of prom-goers from out of town finding their way into Ripon to choose an evening gown for their special night.  It was so crazy that a couple of the clothes racks even collapsed and had to be repaired.

“One girl called from Ceres this morning crying, saying she had ruined her dress last night and tried in vain to fix it with crazy glue,” Shaw said.  “She was here first thing this morning to replace it with one of ours.”

And this week Marissa’s Closet even shipped a dress off to Kansas.  Shaw told of receiving another telephone call from a mom who said she couldn’t afford to send her daughter to the prom because of the cost of a gown.

She was invited to come down to the store and pick one out before it was learned they lived in the Midwest.  They had learned about Marissa’s Closet through a friend.  The daughter had been suffering from a rare genetic disease and hadn’t been expected to live. She had been in and out of the hospital 80 times.

Shaw said they sent pictures of several dresses to the mother – she selected one to be shipped from Ripon to Kansas.  The teen hadn’t been told it was coming until the box was opened.  When she saw it, her mother noted her response: “Is this for me – does this mean I get to go to the prom?”

Stories like that one and girls who couldn’t afford the price of a bid, are helped monetarily from donations that others make when choosing a dress in the shop.

Also this past week the team at Marissa’s Closet packed up 300 of their nearly 2,000 dresses to be shipped by Assist International, of Ripon,  to Uganda for the poorest of the poor.  These are dresses that couldn’t be used for proms without major alterations.  The women of Uganda will turn them into Cinderella gowns to be sold allowing them funds to buy clothes for their communities from China, Shaw said. While she is sending off 300 dresses, Shaw is expecting a shipment of another 300 from Arizona. A former cheer coach from Ripon, who now lives in that state, scoured her region and collected all those dresses for Marissa’s Closet.

Shaw said she doesn’t know how long the closet can continue to operate in the former Ripon Drug Store building in the 400 block of West Main Street.  The owner Dale Larson has the building up for lease or for sale.  He and his wife Phyllis have allowed the Shaws to operate out of that site rent free.  They gave the Larsons a check for the first month but after seeing what they were doing for teenagers, it was torn up, Shaw said.

The family operation aided by some 40 teenage girls and boys from Ripon High School is searching for a permanent downtown location for Marissa’s Closet.  They are looking toward the future in helping more girls realize their dreams of going to that senior prom they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Shaw said they are looking for benefactors, investors in their 501 (c-3) non-profit operation and foundation to help in securing a building to help in continuing the work of Marissa’s Closet they hope will go nationwide in its scope.
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