Two women, one cause, and one special night

Mary Alice Foundation founder Jamika Hamlett, left, poses with the winner of the Royal Prom Package, Jailyn Brown. (Staff photo by Brittney Bizzell)


 

With prom season approaching, many young girls are planning and obsessing over one of the most memorable nights of their lives. However, the reality is that this very night isn’t always a possibility for some girls, as the expenses for prom can be a strain on the finances of their families.

“Prom is an expensive event, and everyone can’t afford it, but it’s no reason that girls can’t enjoy this final moment, especially if it’s your senior or junior prom,” said 26-year-old NCCU alumna Brittney Bizzell.

Bizzell, of Durham, had the idea of starting a prom dress drive to “give back to high school girls in the community.” She expressed the idea to her hairstylist and founder of The Mary Alice Foundation, Jamika Hamlett.

“She said to me, ‘I want to do a prom dress drive’ and I thought that’s really dope,” said Hamlett, as she explained what inspired her to take part in Bizzell’s plan.

“I remember going to prom, and luckily I had both of my parents and they could afford for me to go to prom, but several of my friends couldn’t go to prom because their parents didn’t have enough money,” said Hamlett. “I had never thought of something like that until she mentioned it and it really triggered my brain, like I remembered how many people couldn’t go,” said Hamlett, also a Durham native.

The Mary Alice Foundation was named after Hamlett’s grandmother, Mary Alice Wise. (Staff photo by Brittney Bizzell)

The Mary Alice Foundation was named after Hamlett’s grandmother, Mary Alice Wise. (Staff photo by Brittney Bizzell)

Hamlett learned at a young age about the importance of giving back to the community through her works with her grandmother, Mary Alice Wise. During the holidays, Hamlett would give out food with her grandmother to the homeless people in the community.

She continued to help out in the community as much as she could throughout the years. Hamlett remembered talking to someone and they said to her, “You do a lot. You should start a non-profit because you could get so much more help and do even more.”

Shortly after, Hamlett started The Mary Alice Foundation in 2015 which is named after her grandmother.

Bizzell and Hamlett worked together to start planning the drive in the fall of 2014.

“We started thinking how are we going to do this? Who do we contact? So we kind of just started filling in each piece of the puzzle,” explained Hamlett.

On March 12, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 801 Gilbert Street, The Mary Alice Foundation hosted its first prom dress drive. The event was open to the public. Drinks and food were provided as the young ladies tried on the prom dresses donated to the organization.

Miss North Carolina Supranational, Alexis Sherill, and Mrs. North Carolina Universal, Billie Papuchis, were guest speakers at the drive and gave words of encouragement to the young ladies as they tried on potential prom dresses.

“They had on their crowns and their sashes and they’re helping girls try on prom dresses and telling them that they look beautiful,” said Bizzell.

Each of the girls received a ticket at the event for the chance to win the Royal Prom Package. Jailyn Brown, 17, was the winner of the package that included a prom dress of her choice, alterations of the dress, shoes, hair, makeup, prom photos, and jewelry.

“At the end, her mom explained to us in tears, ‘Thank you all so much. My husband lost his job and we were living paycheck to paycheck and she was really not going to be able to go to prom.’ So it was really a good thing for them,” said Hamlett.

As prom season continues, the MAF will continue to collect dresses for next years’ drive. Girls will also be to get dresses through contact with Hamlett.

Hamlett hopes to incorporate men’s wear into the drive next year which would include suits donated and or discounts for tuxedo rentals.

“We’re really helping people. I feel like a lot of the time we get so forgetful of how much we really have and we don’t really think about the little things, something as simple as going to prom,” said Hamlett. “What girl does not want to go to prom?”

For additional information about donating or getting a prom dress, Hamlett can be contacted at (919) 685-5924.

Approximately 50-60 dresses were donated to the first MAF Prom Dress Drive. “Prom is an expensive event and everyone can’t afford it, but it’s no reason that girls can’t enjoy this final moment especially if it’s your senior or junior prom,” said 26-year-old NCCU alumna Brittney Bizzell. (Staff photo by Montreka Williams)

Approximately 50-60 dresses were donated to the first MAF Prom Dress Drive. “Prom is an expensive event and everyone can’t afford it, but it’s no reason that girls can’t enjoy this final moment especially if it’s your senior or junior prom,” said 26-year-old NCCU alumna Brittney Bizzell. (Staff photo by Montreka Williams)

 

 

Montreka Williams is a student journalist at NCCU serving as a staff writer for the Durham VOICE. She is from Raleigh.