BURGIN — It’s fair to call Jill Montgomery a prom queen, even though she’s never officially been crowned with that honor.
The Mercer County senior has earned the royal title not with boofed-up hair, knock-em dead dress, magnificent makeup, blinged out accessorizing or any of the other extravagant excesses that come with the high school social event of the season. She’s the belle of the ball because she’s gathered up a hefty collection of glamorous dresses and accessories and is giving it all away so that every girl can make their prom fantasies come true.
“Prom is what every high school girl looks forward to and I don’t think it’s fair that some girls can’t afford to get the big, brand name dresses and all the accessories,” Montgomery said. “Girls who have had their fairy tale prom experiences should pass that stuff down so other girls can have their own amazing experience.”
In an example of “free” enterprise at its best, Montgomery started Prom it Forward last year, giving away about 25 dresses to girls from Mercer, Lincoln and Washington counties. She’s had more time to prepare for this year’s upcoming prom season and has collected about 125 dresses, plus shoes, jewelry, handbags and other accoutrements, all of which have been donated.
The entire Prom it Forward collection will be on display and free for the taking on April 7 at Burgin Christian Church, where Montgomery attends and where her inspiration was drawn.
“Last year, our preacher (Mandy Yates, who has since moved on) did a service on Martin Luther King Day about ordinary people doing extraordinary things and something hit me that I want to do something for other people,” Montgomery explained. “We came up with several ideas. Prom it Forward was the best one.”
Her parents, Jeff and Carla Montgomery, church members and friends have helped Montgomery amass the dress collection. Some are from proms past, others from are brides maids, sorority girls and beauty pageant contestants, most of them worn only a time or two. Sizes range from 0 up to several bigger sizes, and the styles range from vintage to last year’s models.
“Some of them are older that we got from ladies at the church and we’ve got more modern ones from younger girls,” said Montgomery, who plans to study elementary education at Murray State University. “Some of them are pretty fancy and some are more plain. There are some artsy girls at my school who like to take a plain dress and do it up in their own style.”
Montgomery went the hand-me-down route for her own prom last year, but is going all out for her May 12 senior prom. Even though she has been bargain shopping, she’s already spent close to $500 on her outfit this year. That’s only half of what some girls spend on their prom get-ups, she said.
Her father, Jeff, shakes his head at the notion of spending that kind of money on things that get worn a time or two and then gather dust in a closet. “There is just no logic to it,”¿he said.
He’s very supportive of Prom it Forward as way to give those fancy duds another spin on the dance floor, worn by girls whose families may not be able to afford such extravagances. He’s looking forward to being at the church when the girls come in and find what they need for their big night.
“We try to make sure nobody takes advantage of the situation, but we don’t ask any questions about income. And even though it’s at a church, don’t think you’ll get hit over the head with a Bible because that’s not the case,” he said. “We just want to make sure everyone can get what they need.”
The church is decorated for the occasion. Classrooms serve as fitting rooms. Church members make matching garters for the dresses. Professional makeup and hair consultants are on hand. There’s even food.
“Some of my friends come in like the consultants you see on wedding shows, and they pull dresses of the rack and help the girls. It really is a lot of fun,” Jill Montgomery said.