The twin parishes of St. Mary of the Mills Catholic Church and St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, of Barnesville, are revving up to host the first ever Brides of Haiti fundraising bridal sales event at the new Msgr. Keesler Parish Center in Old Town on Jan. 27.
Hundreds of new, sample and gently-worn wedding dresses — including designer names such as Demetrios, Mon Cheri and Maggie Sottero as well as a Jim Hjelm by Hayley Paige gown originally priced at $2,750 — will sell for $150. Vintage wedding gowns are priced at $25.
Bridesmaids, mothers-of-the bride and women planning to attend special occasions will find beautiful gowns in sizes 2 to 26 for $30; veils and shoes will also be available.
Photos of some of the inventory are posted on the Brides for Haiti Facebook page, as are announcements about wedding planners and photographers who will be present at the event.
Profits from the sales will benefit St. Mary’s sister parish St. Joseph of Carcasse in Haiti, whose church was totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Susan Jamison, a Barnesville parishioner and volunteer with Brides for Haiti, said the fundraiser, which will be followed by sales events at the Sheraton in Alexandria, Va. in February and at the Barnesville church in March, has the potential to raise $35,000 for Haiti with the inventory in hand and on order.
The money will go to rebuilding St. Joseph’s church; $130,000 is needed for its construction. And Brides of Haiti will continue accepting donations from bridal boutiques and individuals up to, beyond and at the Jan. 27 event.
Jamison said breaking ground on the new church will be “very emotional for everyone involved” because the St. Joseph parishioners, who are very religious typically spend long hours praying in church, are “brokenhearted not having a church.”
“We’ve got to get this done,” she said.
In 2008, St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima began “twinning” with St. Joseph of Carcasse. Brides for Haiti, whose patron saint is St. Philomena, started at the Barnesville church the year following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Barnesville parishioner Jack Reid wrote in an email that $592,352 has been raised for Carcasse in the decade since St. Mary’s began its relationship with St. Joseph. Since 2011, a net of $91,801 has come from the “wedding fund.” The funds have paid for the construction of a school, rectory, teacher salaries, emergency relief, medicines for the clinic, annual medical missions, scholarships and support for the coffee association, which exports coffee to the U.S.
Jamison said the largest donations of inventory to Brides of Haiti have come from Love It! at Stella’s Bridal & Fashions in Westminster, Lily’s Bridal and Prom Boutique in Baltimore, Ann’s Boutique in Burke, Va. and Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City.
At a planning meeting in the office of St. Mary of the Mills earlier this month, director of charity and justice and parish social worker Marsha Raymond, who became involved with Brides for Haiti after the hurricane, met Jamison in person for the first time, although the two had been working together by email since November.
Raymond said St. Mary of the Mills has “done things at Christmas time with the giving tree and two block parties” and is committed to raising $10,000 for Haiti this year.
“We hope in the future to match the fundraising efforts of St. Mary’s in Barnesville,” Raymond said.
Jamison said that having St. Mary of the Mills host this first sales event at the Keesler Parish Center (the gowns have historically been sold in consignment shops and through social media) is “a huge help and greatly appreciated.”
During the planning meeting, Laurel parishioner Ginny Novak came in to donate armfuls of gowns worn at her daughter’s wedding.
“I just think it’s wonderful because I will never wear these dresses again,” Novak said. “If someone can have a beautiful dress and it benefits someone who really needs it, I’m happy to clean out my closet.”
Jamison’s daughter and Barnesville parishioner Laura Wright, of Poolesville, estimates that she’s gathered 250 wedding dresses and about 700 special occasion gowns for Brides of Haiti this year. Wright credits Patricia Bohr from the Barnesville parish, who’s been involved with the fundraiser since about a year into its inception, as a driving force.
Bohr, who collects donations and supplies the gowns to consignment shops, said people have been very kind and willing to help.
“I started working with Brides for Haiti as a favor to my friend, Susan [Jamison], in 2012,” Bohr said. “I enjoy doing work that raises funds to help those in need.”
Wright receives a commission when the gowns sell (as does Bohr). She said she values the opportunity to teach her four young children about what charity means.
“I really love showing my kids our basement that’s full of dresses,” Wright said. “My son Robbie, who’s 7, used to play there and I’ve been able to explain what we’re doing. Helping to rebuild this church is the bottom line and it’s going to be a very touching event.”
According to Jamison, there had never been a doctor in Carcasse before 2008.
“St. Mary’s helped bring in the first medical mission — it was the first time a medical doctor ever stepped foot in Carcasse — I am so proud of St. Mary’s,” she said.
Ladies can register to attend the Laurel sales event by contacting Jamison on the Brides for Haiti Facebook page or emailing her at Brides4Haiti@gmail.com. Those who cannot make the Jan. 27 sale at 800 Main St. from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. can register to attend a Brides for Haiti sales event on Feb.
24 or March 3 at other locations.