The upper Fellowship Hall of Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus will be transformed into a sea of sequins and tulle beginning Aug. 7. Women will be able to come and select a dress that will make them feel beautiful at Shine, Southeast’s annual celebration event for adults with disabilities.
This year, the Disabilities Ministry is introducing the Shine Gala—an upscale twist on the traditional Shine prom, which will be held Oct. 11.
“This year marks Shine’s 10th anniversary at Southeast, so we wanted to do something extra special,” Disabilities Ministry Leader Mary Tatum said. “It’s been amazing that the church has supported this event for so long, and it’s created a feeling of consistency for the people in our ministry. They know that every year, they get to see all of their friends and make new friends at Shine. It’s become like a family reunion for our ministry.”
This year’s theme is “It’s a Small World.” Shelley Roach, who works in the Disabilities Ministry, said she is excited to give guests the opportunity to experience cultures from around the world and show them that no matter who they are or where they come from, they are deeply loved by God.
But before they can celebrate with family and friends, women get to shop for the perfect dress.
“Many of these women have never been to prom or a formal event before, so to make the night extra special, we provide a dress to them for free,” Tatum said.
Each woman is given the royal treatment. They browse through rows of dresses and dazzling accessories.
Volunteer personal shoppers help women find the dress they love.
“Serving as a personal shopper is another level of care that makes our Shine guests feel special,” Roach said.
Personal shoppers will help ladies choose from hundreds of dresses, but the process is more than a fun afternoon of playing dress up.
It’s a day that Southeast members and regular Shine attendees Melissa Cunningham and Kassidy Douglas look forward to every other year.
“I love trying on dresses and finding the perfect one,” Cunningham said. “My favorite colors are blue and purple, so I’d want a dress like that.”
“I love sparkles,” Douglas said. “And green and orange. Those are my favorite. And I like to sing while I try on clothes.”
Dress fittings would not be possible without the help of personal shoppers and seamstresses.
Once personal shoppers have helped ladies select the perfect dress, seamstresses make sure each dress fits.
“We want to make sure each woman finds a dress they love and feel beautiful in,” Roach said. “Shine is the one night of the year that’s all about celebrating them, and giving them the opportunity to find the perfect dress, so to be able to have seamstresses who can make these women feel beautiful makes a world of difference.”
Women with any sewing experience are needed to help Shine guests look their best. Most alterations only include hemming or sewing on straps. Extensive experience is not required.
“Our seamstresses are vital to making Shine the best it can be,” Roach said. “Serving as a seamstress is a way to use a unique skill for God’s glory. These ladies will be more grateful than you can imagine.”
Tatum said helping with dress fittings is a great opportunity for mothers and daughters or groups of women to serve together.
“It’s a fun and different way for women to grow closer together through serving,” she said.
The Disabilities Ministry also helps male guests find a suit that makes them feel just as special.
Men attending this year’s Shine Gala will have the opportunity to rent a suit from Sam Meyers Formal Wear at no cost to them. It, too, is something male guests look forward to.
Though it takes a village for the event to come together, Shine is a memorable experience for all who attend.
Kassidy Douglas' grandfather, Ken Martin, has been her date to Shine every year she has attended. The Martins recall riding in a limousine, eating dinner together and dancing with friends.
“Every year is better than the last,” Ken Martin said. “Kassidy and her friends truly love and care for each other and the people around them without expecting anything in return—the way Christ does. Being able to celebrate them every year is a small way of being able to repay them for all they’ve taught me and so many others about that selfless love.”
Though it is fun getting dressed up, Cunningham and Douglas most enjoy the time they spend with people who make them feel loved.
“I like to spend time with my friends, and I’ve made new friends,” Cunningham said. “I like being with volunteers, too. The volunteers make me feel special.”
Seamstresses and personal shoppers are needed Aug. 7, 9-10, 13 and 15-17. If you have basic sewing skills and would like to volunteer as a seamstress, or if you would like to volunteer as a personal shopper, sign up online at www.southeastchristian.org/events.
If you would like to donate a formal dress, the Disabilities Ministry is requesting dresses size 18 and up. Dresses can be dropped off at LifeBridge. For more information on volunteering with Shine dress fittings, contact Roach at email@example.com or (502) 253-8126.