It began with a newspaper article. High school senior Dominique Cognetta '12 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. In January 2008, Angel’s Attic opened in Tallahassee, Fla., offering new and gently used clothing to female foster teens. In the past two years, 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, now a sophomore at the College, 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’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!”
Since coming to the College, Dominique hasn’t stopped being involved with Angel’s Attic, despite the distance. Last fall she held a clothing drove within her sorority, Kappa Delta, and brought home the donations over Thanksgiving. She’s also busied herself spearheading other philanthropic ventures. Her sorority recently hosted a number of Girl Scouts for a self-esteem workshop, and together they decorated canvas bags to give to friends. In March, 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 says she believes it’s important to try and boost young women’s mood and confidence, especially for girls who are without a stable family. She recalled 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 their 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.