Story by A1C Monica Roybal on 09/04/2019Operation Deploy Your Dress launched its seasonal grand-opening at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Aug. 27, 2019.
The Fort Eustis branch of Operation Deploy Your Dress is a volunteer-run organization that helps military members and their families find a formal dress that fits their individual needs and has been serving the JBLE community since 2016.
"Operation Deploy Your Dress was established to help make military balls more affordable for those in attendance," said Kelly Day, ODYD volunteer. "We offer one free dress and accessory per year to military ID cardholders. We understand that there is always a cost involved with these events, whether it's babysitting, getting a dress, shoes or accessories and we want to help offset that cost so that people who want to attend, can attend."
According to Day, ODYD gave away 640 dresses to military families in 2018, but the shop volunteers agree that their organization is about more than dresses. Most of the volunteers are military spouses who use their experience to help guide those who have not previously attended a military ball.
"I think that our organization's work really shows that we are all here to look out for each other," Day said. "It's very much a community organization. Our goal is to make military life more fun and put a positive spin on the things that we do and the traditions that are involved with the military."
Day, spouse of U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jason Day, Army Support Activity commander, explained that the volunteers work to create a welcoming and uplifting atmosphere for shoppers to help alleviate extra stress they may feel when searching for the right formal gown.
"I love that we get to help people and a getting a chance to make women feel good about how they look and how they feel," Day continued. "You can tell when someone has found the dress that they want. You can just see their face light up. It gives me chills."
While most of the shop-runners are military spouses, this year they welcomed a new volunteer, Avery Mead, age 14 and daughter of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Mead, 733rd Logistic Readiness Squadron superintendent. The 9th-grader dedicated more than 50 hours and $500 toward decorations, new shelving and paint in an effort to make the shop more welcoming.
"Volunteering has taught me to think about more than just myself," Avery said. "This has helped me spend time with more people and see how I am able to help them with their needs."
Avery said seeing the uplifting and complimentary exchanges between strangers as they were shopping was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. She explained how witnessing the empowerment in the room and the line of customers that extended out the front door, inspired her to continue to work for others.
"Everyone was helping each other with what to choose, it was nice to see them all being so helpful and complimenting each other," Avery said. "I think there are a lot of other organizations I can help (at JBLE)."
For more information or to donate, visit http://operationdeployyourdress.org/fort-eustis/ or https://www.facebook.com/forteustisodyd/.