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Dressed for Success

Dominique Cognetta

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It began with a newspaper article while she was in high school. Dominique Cognetta and her mother learned that a charity boutique had opened in South Florida, offering free clothing to teenage girls in foster homes. ‘We should do that here,’ they thought. So they did.

The Cognettas sent letters to friends and family asking for donations. Shortly after that, they opened Angel’s Attic in Tallahassee, Fla., offering new and gently used clothing to female foster teens. Through this initiative, more than 50 young women have been given fashionable clothes for everyday use and for special occasions, including clothing for proms, job interviews, and church services.

Since opening Angel’s Attic, Dominique, has sorted through scores of boxes of donated clothing; organizing it and helping girls pick out appropriate outfits. Often times, she says, girls enter Angel’s Attic with distrust and sour attitudes, but leave with a smile, dressed in smashing outfits. Occasionally, she says, she’s even a little jealous of what goes out the door on somebody else.

“When someone donates the cutest dress in my size, it’s hard,” she says, laughing. “Why do you do this? It’s not nice!”

Coming to the College didn’t cause Dominique to cease her involvement with Angel’s Attic, despite the distance. Last year, she held a clothing drove within her sorority, Kappa Delta, and brought home the donations over Thanksgiving. She has also busied herself spearheading other philanthropic ventures. Her sorority hosted a number of Girl Scouts for a self-esteem workshop, and together they decorated canvas bags to give to friends. One spring, she and her sorority sisters organized the annual Kappa Delta Shamrock Golf Tournament, raising an estimated $20,000 for Prevent Child Abuse America and local sexual abuse prevention group Darkness to Light.

Dominique believes it’s important to try and boost young women’s mood and confidence, especially for girls who are without a stable family. She remembers one 17-year-old girl who visited Angel’s Attic who had been in 18 different foster homes. Sometimes, Dominique, says, new clothes are the perfect way to lift one’s spirits.

“Wearing a cute outfit can help build a teen’s self-esteem,” she says. Many foster teens come in with frowns, Dominique adds, but “they always leave so happy.”

And those smiles, no matter how hard-earned, make it all worthwhile.