Heidi's Closet offers military and dependents free prom and formal rentals

Natalie Joseph
Contact Reporternjoseph@dailypress.com

Hidden among most local consignment shops and other Cinderella's closets across the area, Heidi's Closet came to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in August 2013 with the mission of making fairytale formal events easier and more affordable for military members and their families.

Focused on junior enlistees and dependents, those looking to attend prom on a budget need only a military ID card to check out a dress and accessories.

"This is a great program, and I wish I would have had this in my younger years because I would have participated," said Heidi's Closet volunteer and military spouse Stephanie Hayes. "We all have those dresses we buy one time and we don't wear anymore. It's great that we can help out our fellow military spouses and families."

A Cinderella's closet is a place where people can donate their gently used formal wear for it to be rented out for little or no cost.

Named after Heidi Miller Crawford, whose family made the initial donation to the closet by donating her formal dresses after she died of cancer, other people in the community followed the family's cause by donating dresses, purses, shoes, suits and other formal attire and accessories.

"The closet is a tribute to her," Hayes said. "In the military community we have a lot of events, and the costs can be pretty astronomical, especially when you're talking about the junior enlistees. It's a lot, and this is a way to give back to the military community and to help."

Hayes said Joint Base Langley-Eustis' version of a Cinderella's closet is run by three volunteers, who are military spouses.

Within that group is Karen Murphy, who serves as the seamstress at Heidi's Cinderella's Closet. Murphy's role is to make sure each dress is in tip-top shape.

"I got involved initially with a closet at our previous base and discovered we have one at JBLE," Murphy said. "My personal opinion of the closet is (it's) the opportunity to provide a dress to borrow for someone who may not have the means to buy and attend an event."

The closet is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays, but military dependents going to prom who are in school during the day can schedule evening and weekend appointments.

The closet takes in between seven to 10 dresses a month, according to Hayes, and tends to receive more dresses during this period because of spring cleaning and post-prom season.

Currently, the closet is stocked with formal wear, and Hayes said people have come into the store to reserve dresses for prom season, which begins in early April and kicks into high gear in May.

Heidi's Closet recommends those looking for a prom dress come at least a few weeks out from their specific prom date.

"We want the military community to be able to go to all types of events and not have to go into their budgets for one-time events," Hayes said.

While borrowing formal wear and accessories is free, the items must come back to the shop dry-cleaned.

Joseph can be reached by phone at 757-374-3134.

If you go

What: Heidi's Cinderella's Closet.

Where: 74 Burrell Loop Rd. Building 61, Hampton.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday. Open to anyone with a valid military ID.

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