Today we’d like to introduce you to Ronna Luna.
Ronna, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Two years ago I was referred to an amazing girl at one of our local high schools by her counselor about possibly helping her dream of going to prom a reality. Financially, her Senior Prom would not be a reality for her due to her current financial situation. I was of course super excited to help her, it has always been in my DNA to volunteer and always love to help people out in small ways. I made the call to Gillian and off we went shopping Downtown LA for the day. She was so kind and grateful and sweet and truly stole my heart. We shopped all day, got her the perfect dress and from that moment on I was hooked. Later that day I searched relentllesly for anything in the San Pedro/South Bay that other girls with the same need could utilize as a resource and could find none in our area. My true aha moment came a week later when I looked in my 26 year old daughters closet and there they where…..6 prom dresses
that she had only wore once, one still with tags and thought….how many other closets are holding the same treasures in my friends house.
Within a few days and phone calls I had already sourced 50 plus amazing dresses. Everyone was so happy to give the gowns another life for a great cause. At that time I decided to start a non-profit to be able to dress 100’s of girls for the next prom season. Through those phone calls I was overwhelmed with how many of my friends wanted to get involved and that is how my board was formed with amazing hearts.
We have now gotten so many local businesses involved as well, the outpouring of generosity in our community is second to none. We had our first fundraiser soon after that which we coined our Adult Prom, where we had 276 dance the night away, as well as a special surprise guest visit from Gillian, who we now refer as our Ambassador! Through that venue we were able to purchase dresses in sizes we were lacking in prior to our “Big Give”, where the girls came and were lifted up and edified. The Big Give was for sure one of my proudest moments seeing the girls beam with grace and beauty!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been relatively smooth because I truly believe so many people want to get involved and help make great things happen for deserving girls in our community. I would say that the struggles have been basically not just sourcing the gowns, but having enough gowns in all sizes and body shapes. Our goal is for each girl to have 4 choices of gowns which is a struggle. At Maria’s we make sure every young woman that comes to our Big Give leaves with a dream gown and day. Last year we did not have a large enough size for one of our Maria’s girls, which we quickly decided to build her a custom gown, it was brilliant idea of one of our stylist that day! When we got the picture of her beaming at prom I seriously cried like a baby!
Maria’s Closet – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Located in San Pedro, CA, we provide to those in need: free new or nearly new formal wear, accessories and make-up for Prom in a fun, carefree environment that inspires today’s young women to experience Prom with confidence.
One item that Maria’s team is in tune with is that the fast-paced physical and emotional demands of senior year, lack of financial resources in our footprint and the pressures of today’s social media culture, can impact confidence and self-esteem in young women.
At Maria’s Closet we realize Senior year is a special time for teens. It is filled with iconic senior events like prom, grad night, class breakfasts, picnics, and trips — not to mention senior photos, yearbook ads, SAT’s, college applications, campus visits, college decisions and finally, graduation. As fun and exciting as all of these whirlwind activities and hallmark occasions are, they also mount up to some pretty hefty financial woes and stress which can lead to missing out on that last dance, Prom.
At Maria’s Closet, we don’t let the cost of Prom weigh young women in our community down. We empower them – after all, it takes a village! We know that no senior wants to miss out on activities and events that they have been waiting for since the first day of freshman year! That’s why Maria’s Closet is empowering young women, one gown at a time!
I feel what sets us apart from others is our true love for what we are doing! When we set out to do this we said lets do it right! We strive to make sure our girls are doing the best they can in school, that is why we tied criteria to the application process. The girls are vetted with a 2.0 gpa or better, cannot be truant in school, and also must have financial need. Once our girls are identified we create a whole day for them! Its a fun environment with dressing rooms, each girl has her own volunteer stylist, absolutely amazing gowns, they receive accessories, we have seamstresses on site for simple alterations, make up artists teaching them make up tips, all topped off with amazing swag bags full of full of make up from our amazing corporate sponsors. Oh yes, we end the day with a big cupid shuffle dance off for the girls. It truly is electric that day!
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I would say that my proudest moment so far was our Big Give this year where we empowered over 85 young women with an amazing gown, clutch, accessories and thanks to our sponsors $150.00 worth of make-up We turned the day into an event to edify and lift up the girls. The biggest surprise of this day was that our volunteers that day actually continued to help and mentor a few of the girls, one which has landed an amazing part time job she needed. It just seems what starts with a simple dress grows into so much more, it just keeps giving.
We were also able this year to go to Wayfinder as an “On the road trunk show”. Wayfinder Family Services is a home in Los Angeles for foster kids, many high school age, that actually live there at Wayfinder. They decided to have their own prom on site and contacted us. We set up a whole trunk show for them! They were so wonderful and excited to see hundreds of dresses with tags for them to be able to choose from. That night by far was so rewarding for all of us as well as our volunteers. I actually think seeing their happy faces is a feeling I will never forget.
- The dresses are free to the girls and they get to keep them:)
- Address: 1621 W. 25th Street #147
San Pedro, CA 90732
- Website: www.MariasClosets.org
- Phone: 310.489.5402
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: mariascloset_a_501c3
- Facebook: Maria’s closet
Erick Miseroy and Polah-f-stoppers
Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.