J.O.Y.F.U.L. hosts pop-up dress shop

The first in what is planned to be an annual Pop-Up Prom Dress Shop happened recently at Endy Elementary School.

The event was promoted by J.O.Y.F.U.L., a personal outreach program targeted at supporting and encouraging young women.

Although this was the first time this event took place, it was well attended, more than 50 of the more than 300 dresses sold within the first hour of the first day. There were girls of all ages in attendance, from middle schoolers looking for a spring formal dress to high schoolers preparing for prom.

“We had over 100 young ladies walk away with a dress,” Jodi Autry, J.O.Y.F.U.L.’s founder, said. “All middle schools and high schools in Stanly County had students that attended, even Gray Stone and homeschool students.”

Abigail Ecenbarger shows the dress she found at the pop-up shop organized by J.O.Y.F.U.L. (Photo by JESSICA COVINGTON)

One shopper was Abigail Ecenbarger, a student at West Stanly High School who was in search of the perfect prom dress.

“I was looking for a black dress in pretty much this exact style,”

Ecenbarger said, gesturing to a gold dress. “I saw this one and thought, hey, I look good in gold.”

Ecenbarger was there with her mother, Sarah, who shared their motivation for attending the event.

“Last year we borrowed a dress from a friend, but this year we wanted something personal without having to go to the mall,” she said.

The inspiration of finding something personal strikes true with the goal for the event set by Autry.

“I want every girl who comes in to find something that makes them feel beautiful and confident. That’s what this is all about,” said Autry, who is also the principal at Endy.

Autry spent the last year searching for, selecting and purchasing most of the dresses available at the event. With the addition of 15 to 20 of the dresses donated by local stores in the last few months, Autry was able to pull together dresses in almost every style, color and size, making this event inclusive for all.

“I had over 37 volunteers that helped make this happen,” Autry said. “Volunteers included student Beta Club members, local beauty pageant winners, Stanly County Schools Central Office staff, Stanly County School Board of Education and many other community volunteers.”

J.O.Y.F.UL. was founded by Autry and her husband two years ago as a project to support young women who are working to grow into successful leaders. From working in the school system, Autry recognized a need for extra guidance and support for young women who will become the future leaders and role models of the community.

To that effect, Autry’s organization also does work with several other outreach programs, such as soup kitchens and shelters to help survivors of domestic violence.

“The feedback (to the pop-up) was very positive and many people from across the county are still reaching out to help with any future events that my outreach takes on,” Autry said.

To learn more on ways to get involved, reach out to Jodi Autry at jodi.autry@stanlycountyschools.org.

Jessica Covington is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.