Prom gown giveaway hosted by Catonsville hair salon Saturday

Like any business owner, Julie Felder was happy to see a line forming outside her Catonsville hair salon before the shop opened at 8 a.m. Saturday.

But Felder, who has operated her business in Catonsville for 10 years, was not offering any discounted specials to attract customers.

In fact, the teenage girls, their parents and guardians weren't even paying customers.

Those standing in the line that stretched from the Jule Box Hair Spa on the second floor of the building at 730 Frederick Road down the stairs to the parking lot had come for the free prom gowns Felder was offering.

More than 70 girls attended the April 14 event, meeting with a makeup artist and a nail technician in addition to selecting a dress for their prom.

The day before the event, five dress racks containing more than 140 dresses of various shapes and colors in sizes from 0 to 24 were in her shop.

Felder said organizing the dresses, which had been worn to proms, weddings and other formal affairs, by color and size had been a labor of love for her and her four employees.

"Most of the donations have come from my church," said Felder, a member of Morning Star Baptist Church in Catonsville.

Other donations were from members of the Greater Gethsemane Church in East Baltimore, Felder's clients and friends of client, she said.

And some were from women who just wanted to help.

Esi Yarney of Windsor Mill stopped by the shop Friday afternoon to drop off a green dress she had worn as the maid of honor for her sister's wedding last year.

"It's just been hanging in my closet," she said. "It probably would have stayed in the closet too."

Yarney said she had seen Felder's shop featured on the WJZ-TV morning show earlier that day and decided to deliver her gown.

The show included store employees Jasmine Simpson, a Woodbridge Valley resident, Jennifer Howard, a Western School of Technology and Environmental Science graduate, and Dana Jones modeling some of the dresses.

Making that television appearance meant she and her employees, including nail technician Kendra Boyd, had to be at the store by 4:45 a.m., Felder said.

But the publicity, along with fliers and mentions on radio, obviously paid off Saturday.

""It was awesome. It was absolutely awesome," Felder said.

Only five girls left without a dress, she said, and that was because they could not find the right color or size.

Most left with jewelry, shoes and a handbag to complete their outfit, she said.

Dresses can range in price from $75 to several hundred dollars, she said.

"It's very important," said Felder on going to a prom for a young girl. "It's the next thing just before your wedding."

A graduate of the vocational program at Carver in Baltimore, Felder said she can still remember attending her prom at Martin's West.

"Growing up, I can remember my parents found it rough around this time of year," said Felder, whose son attends Archbishop Curley High School, an all-boys Catholic school in Baltimore.

Felder said her desire last year to hold a giveaway to help girls who would not be able to attend their school prom because they can't afford a dress has not changed.

"Looking at the economy, talking to clients and hearing their stories about how they're trying to make things happen for their children" inspired her to hold the event again this year.

"I had to do it again, because of the turnout (last year)," she said. "People were so grateful."

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