Rita's Closet has a new home in the TownMall of Westminster. The organization will host a grand opening Saturday, April 1, almost five years to the day that the nonprofit's namesake died in a car crash.
"We hope the move increases our visibility so that we can continue to impact the community," said Tamara Medeiros, the nonprofit's founder.
The group began by offering prom dresses at low or no cost for girls who might not be able to afford one, but has since expanded the effort to include all special occasion dresses, tuxedos and cruise wear.
Rita's Closet honors the life of Medeiros' daughter, Rita, who died April 2, 2012, from injuries sustained in an automobile crash at age 16. Rita was on her way home from showing her boyfriend her prom dress she had purchased a day earlier when the crash occurred.
The new shop will be located near the Belk department store, after a few years of operating under the umbrella of AMR Jewelry in Westminster.
The foundation started operating year-round two years ago and will continue to do so in its new space at the mall.
The dresses are sold to raise funds for scholarships for local area high schools, as well as the Carroll County Career and Technology Center. To date, they have awarded more than $6,000 in scholarships.
"Our long-term goal is to award a scholarship in Rita's memory to every high school in Carroll County," Medeiros said.
Rita's Closest has also provided more than 50 dresses to young ladies whose families have limited incomes. The organization works with a student's school guidance counselor to arrange picking out a dress.
Medeiros said Rita's Closet received a discount on TownMall rent because it is a nonprofit. In an effort to keep overhead costs to a minimum, so they may use more funds for scholarships, the store will be staffed by volunteers. Students may also earn service hours by volunteering at the store.
In 2016, the foundation received the William Donald Schaefer People Helping People Award for Carroll County. The award is presented annually by the state's comptroller to honor individuals and organizations in Maryland's 24 jurisdictions who exemplify former governor's lifelong commitment to helping people.
"It was amazing to know that the larger community recognizes the value that we're bringing to Carroll County through out cause," Medeiros said.
If you go
What: Grand opening of Rita's Closet
When: Saturday, April 1
Where: TownMall of Westminster, 400 N. Center St., Westminster