Lima Kiwanis program makes prom affordable

LIMA — For years, teens looking for an affordable prom dress have turned to the Diva’s Den.

The formal dress giveaway was founded by the Lima Kiwanis Club, which has been collecting new and gently used formal dresses to alleviate the financial burden on families whose teenage daughters wish to attend prom, homecoming and other formal events.

The premise is simple: A single prom dress can cost hundreds of dollars, but a dress from the Diva’s Den is free.

“One of the first years we did (the Diva’s Den) a mother, grandmother and daughter came in. The girl put the dress on — she was gorgeous. And then the mother cried because there was no way she could buy her the dress,” said Candace Newland, a volunteer and board member for the Lima Kiwanis Club.

Held at the Masonic Center in Lima each year, the annual tradition remains one of the most popular Kiwanis-sponsored events.

Dresses are donated by women and department stores with excess inventory. Used dresses are cleaned to look like new, while brand new dresses may be worth as much as $800 in retail.

There is no obligation to return a dress to the Diva’s Den, but many girls bring their dresses back the next year anyway, Newland said. Others hold onto their dresses for years before recycling them.

The Kiwanis Club gave away 154 dresses at its Diva’s Den this year, Newland said.

The popular dress giveaway is one of many projects the Lima Kiwanis Club sponsors to support local youth.

The Lima chapter was founded in 1920, joining 156 Kiwanis clubs in a mission to serve children.

The club has provided startup funds for a student filmmaker boot camp in Lima and donates free tree saplings to every first grader in Allen County each year.

The club has hosted fundraisers to build the one-room schoolhouse at the Allen County Museum and the all-abilities playgrounds at Camp Robin Rogers and the Great Day at Marimor School, so children with physical and intellectual disabilities are not segregated from their peers at playtime.

Each year, local Kiwanians honor Allen County’s top music students and award a four-year scholarship to a high school musician, allowing local musicians to pursue music careers. And they regularly interact with local youth through service leadership programs in Allen County schools.

“We want to instill in them the value of volunteering, the value of helping people other than just your family and friends, giving them a broader outlook of what it’s like in the world,” Newland said.

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Soleil Coats, then 14, sifts through a rack of prom dresses at a Diva’s Den event at the Lima Masonic Temple in 2017. Sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Lima, the annual event allows girls to shop for prom dresses at no cost.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2022/03/web1_prom-dresses.jpgSoleil Coats, then 14, sifts through a rack of prom dresses at a Diva’s Den event at the Lima Masonic Temple in 2017. Sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Lima, the annual event allows girls to shop for prom dresses at no cost. File photo | The Lima News
Lima Kiwanis Club’s popular formal dress giveaway is one of many projects supporting Allen County youth

By Mackenzi Klemann

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