Retiree spouse pays it forward

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kevin Williams
  • Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
After seeing her daughter off to junior prom, her daughter's friend expressed how much she would like to go, but didn't because her single father couldn't afford to buy her a dress. That memory inspires Myrna Smith, the owner of Myrna's Tailor Shop in Colorado Springs, to help as many women as she can.

She helps by giving away formal dresses, free of charge, to high school girls and servicemember's wives who otherwise cannot afford to buy a new one.

During the last few years, people have donated new and slightly-used dresses to help girls from the local community obtain prom dresses, so they won't miss out on an important event in a teenager's life.

A couple of months ago, an Airman called and asked Ms. Smith if she had any leftover dresses for his wife to wear for a formal military function. Since she still had five boxes of dresses, she decided to provide dresses to military wives so they can attend graduations, military balls and other formal events.

"The dresses are donated from all over the community," Ms. Smith said. "We have dresses that have never been worn and dresses that were used maybe once or twice that are in great shape."

As the wife of a retired Airman, Ms. Smith knows the financial struggles military families face. Most of the women who pick up dresses usually bring them back for someone else to use, even though it's not required.

"We give one dress to each customer who wants one," she said. "Most of them return it with a few other dresses from their closet. We don't ask them to, but it's nice when they do. It makes me feel good to do this because I was there. When I met my husband, he was a young Airman and I remember what it's like trying to scrape by."

Since local military bases host a variety of formal events, Ms. Smith said it's the perfect opportunity for military wives to pick up a dress so they can attend these events with their husbands. She expects more wives to pick up dresses for the upcoming Air Force Ball and holiday parties.

Although she currently has about 200 dresses in her store, Ms. Smith said she can always use more and still takes whatever donations she can get. However, she doesn't take money, only dresses.

"I am so busy with everything else, I just don't have time to buy dresses," Ms. Smith said. "One lady tried to give me money, but I told her I can't take it. She came back later with a box full of new dresses."

There are no requirements for anyone who wants a dress. A customer can come in, try on as many dresses as she'd like and take her favorite. In some cases, Ms. Smith provides minor alterations.

With her business keeping her busy, Ms. Smith barely has time to provide to this cause, but she does it anyway.

"It's what we're supposed to do," she said. "It's the right thing to do. My family is a retired military family. I was in their shoes. Been there, done that. It feels good to help people and I sleep better at night."

She also does this to teach her children the importance of giving back to a community that gives so much to her. Her hope is that some of the women who benefit will one day give back.