‘We’re giving everybody the opportunity to have the prom experience’

Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse reopens free prom pop-up shop April and May



Clothing on racks at the prom pop-up shop, May 17.

GABRIELLE FELICIANO, Evergreen life editor

Lauren Lowder, Pullman High School sophomore, was in need of a dress for this year’s upcoming prom. She was finally able to take home on May 17 a full-length emerald green dress and even a pair of earrings from the Gladish Community and Cultural Center — all for free.

Lauren is just one of over 30 high school students who got prom essentials free of charge from Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse’s prom pop-up shop, based out of ATVP’s Pullman office in the Gladish. These essentials included dresses, suits and shoes in sizes ranging from zero to 24, as well as jewelry, ties and handbags.

Lauren’s mother, Linda, said that because of the lack of options for buying formal wear locally, they have had to order it online, which was often a “hit or miss.” When she found out her daughter could not only try on but take home items at the pop-up for free, she said she was so touched she almost started to cry.

“I was very overwhelmed by the whole gesture,” Linda said. “And we did end up finding something that my daughter really loved and took it with us.”

This was the third year ATVP held the temporary shop, said Andrea Piper-Wentland, ATVP executive director and a pop-up organizer. ATVP welcomed shoppers on certain days in April and May, with the pop-up’s first day of operation being April 19 and its last being May 19.

All of the items were brand new, gently used or only worn once, said Cyell King-Hood, a registered nurse contracted with ATVP who worked at the pop-up. Shoppers could come into the pop-up, browse, try on and leave with any items of their choosing, and they had the option of returning or exchanging items.

On some days, there were also live makeup tutorials at the pop-up that taught shoppers how to do their makeup for prom, Piper-Wentland said.

Most of the items are donations from community members all over the state, Piper-Wentland said. As certain sizes of items depleted, ATVP restocked them with more donations. Piper-Wentland said that ATVP would post calls on social media for items they needed, and the community would respond with donations that fit those needs.

“Right around prom time, everybody’s scrambling to get outfits, dresses, things like that. And it’s incredibly expensive,” King-Hood said. “So we wanted to provide something where somebody could come in, pick out a really nice outfit, accessories, jewelry, ties, suits … and they get to take the outfit home for free.”

ATVP works with high school students that serve as peer educators, Piper-Wentland said. The peer educators told ATVP that a service offering prom essentials was something that students would be interested in, and ATVP then worked to organize what would eventually become the prom pop-up shop.

At the pop-up, ATVP also provided brochures with information about their other services, which range from 24-hour crisis intervention to legal and medical advocacy for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, according to ATVP’s website.

“We really want to support the health and well-being of our community and in particular that of our youth,” Piper-Wentland said. “And this is one way that we can engage.”

ATVP plans to hold the prom pop-up again next year, Piper-Wentland said. They are also considering holding a Halloween pop-up in October this year with some of the items left over from the prom pop-up.

ATVP does not currently have enough space to hold all of the items they receive for the prom pop-up, Piper-Wentland said. However, if they did have the space, as well as the staff and funds, ATVP would mobilize the prom pop-up and hold it in other schools on the Palouse.

“[The pop-up] helps fill a need,” King-Hood said. “Not everybody in this community has the means financially to go and get the really pretty prom dresses or the really nice shoes to go to these formal affairs … So we’re filling that need. We’re giving everybody the opportunity to go and have the prom experience.”