Operation Deploy your Dress
Military balls are a tradition ingrained in modern military culture, but for many military spouses the cost of a ball gown keeps them at home. Three Years ago, a quintet of Army spouses-all Costco Members- at Fort Bliss in Texas began removing that barrier by launching Operation Deploy Your Dress (ODYD).
ODYD accepts donations of gently used and new gowns, tuxedos and accessories that are “redeployed” free of charge to Military and dependent ID cardholders. To date, ODYD has provided formal wear to more than 5,000 military spouses, many of whom are attending their first formal military event.
“I can’t count how many times we’ve had people in tears because they’ve never been able to attend a ball before. Their budget didn’t allow for it,” says ODYD co-founder Yvonne Coombes when describing spouses’ reactions to receiving a dress.
ODYD morphed from fledgling idea to over-night success in late 2015 when co-founder Renee Chapman was interviewed about a dress-swap program on a national news show. Donations began flooding in to Fort Bliss, with as many as 60 boxes landing daily on Chapman’s doorstep.
“I was in shock, and honestly overwhelmed and touched too,” Chapman recalls. “I never expected the support we received.”
In partnership with military spouse clubs, the all-volunteer orginization has expanded to four additional bases: Fort Bennings, Georgia; Fort Eustis, Virginia; Fort Irwin, California; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. A do1(c)(3) nonprofit, ODYD (operationdeployyourdress.com) accepts monetary donations and in-kind contributions as well as formal wear and accessories – Andrea Downing Peck