Palmyra church gears up for gown sale

Dropping off a couple gowns Wednesday for the First Christian Church prom dress sale, Judy Wheeler, left, of St. Patrick, Mo., shares some details about the garments with Karen Sutor of Hannibal, Mo. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Jan. 24, 2013 9:09 am Updated: Feb. 7, 2013 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

PALMYRA Mo. -- Eighteen-year-old Emily McAfee hung two dresses among the rainbow of evening attire lining the mismatched clothing racks at First Christian Church in Palmyra.

She and her mother, Roberta McAfee, traveled more than 50 miles from Kahoka to put her dresses back on the market. She hoped her contribution to the church's prom dress sale would mean cash for her, another night of dancing for her dress and a donation for the church.

"We're helping out and getting something out of our closet," Roberta McAfee said.

The sale runs from 6-8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at First Christian Church at 202 E. Olive St. in Palmyra. For two years, Nancy Goellner, the church's fundraising committee chairman, has watched teenage girls trade their ball gowns for cash. The fundraiser provides a way for the seller to earn something for a dress they may never wear again. The resale prices allow buyers to get gently worn gowns at a fraction of the department store cost.

"We have several dresses that are free, so that's a pretty good gem," Goellner said.

Meanwhile, the church receives a $5 registration fee as well as 15 percent of the profit of all dresses that sell. This money goes to the building's upkeep and may fund projects such as new air-conditioning and carpeting in the sanctuary.

Dresses vary in cost and brand. Regardless, Goellner strives to keep the gowns affordable and encourages the girls to price the dresses so they sell.

"A lot of them are very proud of their dresses, and they don't want to put a low price on it," she said. "But for the most part, if it's over $150 we won't sell it."

She estimates the fundraising committee resold 80 of 200 gowns in 2011, and she anticipates similar success in this weekend's sale. As teenage girls and parents registered and priced the used gowns Friday night, volunteers transformed the church's basement into a showroom. They hung canvas curtains from the ceiling to create 10 makeshift dressing rooms. One volunteer covered a platform in cloth so the girls could model in front of a set of mismatched, full-length mirrors. The dresses were racked by size and labeled with the prices as well as the schools where the dresses were worn.

"We try to put what school they were worn at because that seems to be important to the girls," Goellner said.

McAfee wore her dresses at the Clark County High School prom. Having traveled 50 miles south for the resale, it wasn't likely the dresses would end up at the same prom this year. Often the variety in schools means just as much to the teenagers as paying an affordable price for the gown.

"I sent the flyers to 23 different high schools, so we definitely got the word out," Goellner said.