Lois Tackett never went to her high school prom or any school dances. She didn’t have the proper dresses or the money to buy them.

“To me, there was no use to finish high school—I couldn’t participate in the dances or anything,” said Tackett, co-founder of Manna From Heaven Outreach in Myra, Ky., a nonprofit that provides food, clothes, furniture, home repair items and more to people in need.

Tackett wasn’t going to let other young women—and men—follow in her footsteps, as she and her husband, Ralph, partnered with Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Cincinnati, 250 miles away.

Resurrection, which has a long-standing relationship with Manna From Heaven Outreach, agreed to collect prom attire for girls and boys—and not just dresses and tuxedos. Their donations included shoes, purses, makeup, shirts, ties and more. The goal was to help give students a prom to remember.

The congregation opened the “Class of 2017 Prom Closet” in a coatroom at the church, paving the way for Myra’s students to celebrate a rite of passage. At presstime, they had collected more than 100 items and donations were still coming in.

“This is a dream for them,” said Cindy Zorn, outreach co-chair for Resurrection, where her husband Henry is pastor. “We come from suburbia and these kids have things. The kids in Myra have nothing. This has really touched a nerve.”

Myra is located in Appalachia’s coal-mining country. The average annual income in the community is about $8,700, Zorn said. Nearly 25 percent of the youth don’t attend high school.

“You can’t change an entire culture,” Zorn said. “But you can make inroads. For these kids to have a prom is really a celebration.”

Resurrection’s relationship with Manna From Heaven Outreach started in 2012 when the Zorns answered the nonprofit’s request for assistance with food, clothes and toys for people in Myra.

Zorn made the delivery and found herself traveling back with more the following week. “My husband said, ‘We can’t be one and done,’ ” she said.

And nearly every month since that first delivery, Resurrection loads one or two U-Haul trucks with food, personal hygiene products and other items and someone makes the 4 ½-hour drive to Myra. Zorn said the monthly deliveries are valued between $33,000 to $35,000.

A $3,000 Domestic Hunger Grant from ELCA World Hunger helps make the collections and deliveries possible, Zorn said. Through the grant, Resurrection was able to take a small financial gift and multiply it.

“This ministry is like when Jesus took fives loaves of bread and two fish and fed thousands,” she said. “It’s just amazing. It just warms my heart.”

While this is only the first year Resurrection collected formal attire and prom-related items, their continued partnership with Manna From Heaven Outreach is something for which Zorn gives thanks to God. “God is just letting this thing grow,” she said. “Where it will go from here, I do not know.”

Cindy Uken
Cindy Uken is a veteran, award-winning reporter based in Palm Springs, Calif. She has worked at USA Today, as well as newspapers in South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and California.

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