Thank You, Bonnie Doyle!

Posted on June 19, 2012, by Lizzie Presser, Half the Sky Movement

Bonnie Doyle arrived at Show of Force recently with more than 150 gowns layered in her trunk, including her very own wedding dress from decades ago. After reading Nicholas Kristof’s column in September about a Kenyan dressmaker named Jane Ngoiri, Ms. Doyle decided to put out a memo in her church’s bulletin calling for old gowns. The response was tremendous.

Bonnie Doyle drove four hours to deliver more than 150 dresses for Jane Ngoiri

Nicholas Kristof spotlighted Jane because of her great success fighting poverty with the help of a microloan. Jane, a former prostitute living in Nairobi, has started a business collecting old gowns and refashioning them as children’s dresses to sell in the local market. With the help of donors like Ms. Doyle, Jane now has an income stable enough to send her children to school.

“Her story just really touched my heart,” said Ms. Doyle as she unloaded the donated dresses into the basement of the building in New York City. “And so many women [who donated dresses] told me that it makes them feel so good to be able to do something to help the world.” Show of Force, the production company for the PBS documentary Half the Sky that features Jane, offered to collect dresses in their office to send to Jane in Nairobi.

Ms. Doyle initiated the drive with the support of The Committee for the Common Good at St. Rosalie’s Church in Hampton Bays. They also reached out to Sacred Hearts Church in Southampton. This is the first time her group has organized a drive to help a community in another country.

Some of the dresses Bonnie brought to Show of Force

“There are a lot of needs within our own community,” explained Ms. Doyle, “but the world is a small place these days and the need beyond our borders is very, very extreme. Really, we’re happy to help anywhere we can.”

As Ms. Doyle opened her car door to drive the two hours back to Hampton Bays, she offered one final thought: “A poor woman is lifting herself out of poverty, helping children, and these are the kinds of things you can do by simply cleaning out your closet.”

We’re sure Jane will be thrilled with this final package of colorful cotton and tulle coming her way. Thanks to the overwhelming support from donors countrywide, Jane now has enough dresses to last her a long while. If you’re looking to donate old gowns, check out some of these organizations below.


Some other organizations seeking dress donations:

Brides Against Cancer collects and sells old gowns to help provide wellness and educational services to people affected by breast cancer

Donate My Dress provides special occasion dresses to girls who cannot afford them for formal events.

Brides for Haiti, run by St. Mary's Catholic Church in Barnesville, Maryland, sells donated dresses at consignment shops to raise money to help its twin parish in Haiti, St. Joseph's Parish in Carcasse.  

Bridal Garden sells wedding gowns and uses the money to help New York City children in need. This is a great way to help underprivileged children in the region.