Ultra Chic for a Good Cause
In 2007, Max I. Walker started the Ultra Chic Prom Boutique, a charity event to benefit the Open Door Mission’s Lydia House, which provides emergency services for women and families in need of immediate assistance. The Ultra Chic Prom Boutique not only provides money to Lydia House, but it also allows high-school girls who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford prom dresses the chance to buy them for around $20 each.
Each year, Envoy works with Max I. Walker to organize the event. Omahans can drop off their used formal dresses at any Max I. Walker location during the collection period, Phase I of the project. Max I. Walker cleans the dresses and prepares them for the boutique. At the end of February, the Ultra Chic Prom Boutique opens from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Omaha’s Holiday Inn Central. This is Phase II of the project.
To prepare for and publicize the event, Envoy updates the Ultra Chic Prom Boutique page on MaxIWalker.com for Phases I and II, and press releases are distributed for each phase. The event usually earns media coverage on both television and radio, and by the time the boutique opens, girls from all over Omaha arrive to find a dress. In fact, they start lining up at 7:30 a.m., and when the doors open at 9 a.m., hundreds of girls swarm through the doors and to the dress racks. The high-energy environment is charged by girls discovering dresses they love or that they can transform into one-of-a-kind designs, ala Pretty in Pink.
The number of dresses donated has increased every year, from around 400 dresses the first year to 1,000 in 2009 and 1,700 in 2010. Likewise, the amount raised for Lydia House has increased from $2,000 the first year to $8,600 in 2010. Max I. Walker donates any unsold dresses to the Open Door Mission’s Timberlake Outreach Center and Women’s Career Workshop.
Before the first Ultra Chic Prom Boutique event, Envoy and Max I. Walker visited area schools and hosted focus groups to find out how girls responded to the idea. Then, students on the planning committee voted on the charity that the boutique would benefit and chose Lydia House.
The Ultra Chic Prom Boutique wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers and sponsors who make the event happen, including employees from Max I. Walker, local high-school students, volunteers from the Open Door Mission and area vendors.