Borrow For The Ball now open for military families

By LYNETTE SOWELL
Cove Leader-Press 

One member of the Five Hills Scholarship Pageant royalty knows from experience what it’s like to miss out on “going to the ball” for not being able to afford a dress. 
Miss Five Hills Melissa Sartwell kicked off her service project Borrow for the Ball, which allows active duty military family members of rank E-4 and below to borrow gowns for formal events, whether it be a military ball, prom, or other special occasion. 
Sartwell has been collecting gowns, with dry cleaning services provided by Holiday Cleaners in Cove Terrace Shopping Center, and spent Thursday morning getting her “showroom” ready for customers at Sporty-B.
For B.J. Callaway, owner of Sporty-B, located at 209 S. Main St., allowing her storefront to do double-duty as a formal gown showroom was an easy “yes” for her. Sporty-B is one of the sponsors for the annual pageant and Callaway knew that Sartwell had been planning the project. 
“So I told Wendy (Sledd), If you would like to, you’re more than welcome to use my building for that,” said Callaway. “It’s like a pop-up showroom.” 
Borrow for the Ball is a dress shop for active duty military families ranked E-4 and below. 
“Whether it be for a military ball, prom, Valentine’s Day, dances, basically any formal event they need a gown for,” said Sartwell. “They are welcome to bring donations. It is a $50 deposit, but if they bring the dress back, they will get it back. We just want to make sure we get a gown back.”
Sartwell said Holiday Cleaners takes care of basic alterations and dry cleaning. 
“They can choose a dress, try it on, take some pictures with it, and then we’ll hold onto the dress before their event, and then they bring it back within three days after the event.”
Sartwell shared about why this project is personally important to her, recalling the days when prom “seemed like a maybe” for her, the daughter of a single mother in the Air Force. Now a military spouse herself, she wants to give back.
“I know there’s a lot of gowns in my closet I don’t sue, so if everybody can pile those things together, then a lot of money saved, and a lot of people can change that ‘maybe’ to  a ‘yes’ for their 8th grader or their senior, or go to a military ball. I know tons of people who’ve missed out on a ball because they knew they couldn’t put the money out for a gown.” 
She said she doesn’t want someone to worry about something as small as a gown. 
“It’s just not something I think a child should worry about, or a spouse should worry about when going to military ball. Her husband has his uniform, but she doesn’t have anything to wear,” Sartwell added. “It’s also an experience that I think every military spouse should be able to have. I’ve missed experiences because of things like that.”
The idea of having the right dress for an occasion is also a confidence booster.
“I think we’ve all gone somewhere in the wrong dress before…So to be able to pick a dress that meets the standard of the occasion, not to worry about what you’re wearing, because you’re  at the level of everyone else. And nobody has to know that you didn’t pay for it and you’re going to bring it back afterward.” 
The project is part of her year-long initiative to help military families.
“I’ve always wanted to be able to fill those gaps. I remember not having enough school supplies, I remember not having a gown now and then. So to be able to fill all those gaps. I feel like military families go through enough with separations and moving, and something as small as a dress can change a night.”
Those interested in shopping for a gown to borrow can stop by Sporty-B during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Donations of gowns are also welcomed and pickup of donations is available upon request. To donate items, please contact Sartwell at fivehillspageant@gmail.com, or bring any gowns to Sporty-B at 209 S. Main St. 

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