Faith Community Church women learn ministry comes in all shapes and sizes - of formal wear

Chris Jackson (left) adjusts the bowtie of Converse resident Jonathan Maynus as he tries on a tuxedo at the Faith Formal Attire shop located inside Faith Community Church. Maynus came back this year after renting his first tuxedo from the ministry for last year’s prom. Faith Formal Attire has also provided formal clothing for a wedding, plays and other special occasions.
Chris Jackson (left) adjusts the bowtie of Converse resident Jonathan Maynus as he tries on a tuxedo at the Faith Formal Attire shop located inside Faith Community Church. Maynus came back this year after renting his first tuxedo from the ministry for last year’s prom. Faith Formal Attire has also provided formal clothing for a wedding, plays and other special occasions. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

A group of ladies at Faith Community Church have not only learned how to share God’s love by renting – of all things – tuxedos and prom dresses, they have seen their ministry expand to provide affordable formal attire for weddings and other events as well.

It’s called “Faith Formal Attire,” a “closet” full of clothing housed in a little back room at the church, located at 3615 N. Norwood Rd. on Huntington’s west end.

Chris Jackson, who heads the ministry, says it started in 2017 when the church’s youth pastor was contacted by Love In the Name of Christ about an area tuxedo shop that had gone out of business. They had received a donation of men’s clothing from the store and didn’t know what to do with all of it.

“They had tuxes, and shirts, and bow ties and vests, and shoes – they had everything,” Jackson says.

“We were fortunate. We had a lot of help setting up the room and everything and making racks and doing all that stuff. It just came together like it was meant to be.”

Having about 50 tuxedos might not have sounded like it would make for a meaningful ministry, but Jackson soon found out that providing affordable prom attire was a heaven-sent mission. They soon added around 100 prom dresses to their racks.

“We wanted to be able to impact the community,” she says. “We wanted the kids that couldn’t afford to go to prom because they couldn’t afford a dress or a tux to go. We’ve heard horror stories telling us that tuxes are running anywhere from $200 to $300 for one night. How do parents afford that?”

“It’s not only for people that can’t afford it; it’s also for people who can afford it but they don’t want to spend that much money,” Jackson adds.
In addition, each high schooler who rents an outfit for prom receives an envelope from Faith Community Church’s pastor containing a card and message about the church, and also $10 to help pay for gas or dinner on the special night.

People come from Marion, Wabash, Fort Wayne and other areas just to take advantage of the ministry’s offerings. Most find out by word of mouth.

Lately, however, Faith Formal Attire has also been shopped by those needing formal clothing for other occasions besides prom.

“We’ve done a wedding,” Jackson says. “And we had one young man, who, for his class, he had to be Colin Powell. His mother was frantic – ‘Where are we going to get a tux or something for him to look like Colin Powell?’ You can see downstairs we actually have a picture of this little boy.”

Another customer – Jackson herself – picked out a tux she wore in a play in which she portrayed a waiter.

“We did use a couple of our dresses in the melodrama out at the Pioneer Festival,” says Marlene Baker, who also works with the Faith Formal Attire ministry. “We actually just hung them up because they were doing like a fashion show, because the play was about a fashion show. We had them hanging up on the wall because they were beautiful. Nobody wore them, but they were used for a prop.”

The shop has also received donations of “mother-of-the-bride dresses,” making outfitting a wedding party easier on both the bill and the stress that often comes with planning the occasion. In fact, much of the dress inventory has been donated from stores that have gone out of business and other ministries such as the Indiana Dream Center and Love INC.

The selection available for rent includes jewelry, shoes, men’s top hats, suspenders and bowties. Tux sizes run from boys to men’s 50 with shirts in all sizes; in dresses it’s size 3 to 22/24. There are dressing rooms with a mirror so people can see exactly how the outfits look on them, and some alterations are also available. The volunteers of Faith Formal Attire are skilled at helping customers pick out just the right ensemble.

A few other pictures of “clients,” dressed in the clothing they picked out to wear to prom, also grace the walls of the ministry’s storage room, including a photo of Jonathan Maynus, 18, from Converse, whose prom is coming up in April. This is the second year Maynus, a senior at Oak Hill High School, has made the 40-minute trip to Faith Formal Attire, returning this year to pick out another one.

“It worked out good. My mom told me about it – we heard about it on Facebook. We tried it out – we drove out here,” he says. “Everyone was very understanding and helpful.”

Maynus found a tuxedo he liked, after pricing rentals at other shops last year at more than $100. This year he picked out a sharp cutaway “morning coat” and tails to go with black slacks featuring a side stripe, white shirt with “jet” black buttons and a bowtie.

Baker says the ministry wants to help more people in the community save money on what can be a very costly time in a high school student’s life.

“If there is an event, especially like Boys & Girls Club has dances every once in a while,” she says. “They just need something they’re going to, like a prom, or even just an evening out. It would be nice way to have a nice dress or a nice suit or tux to wear if it’s a special occasion. If a guy wants to propose? It would be really nice for him to come out and get a tux and do it the right way!”

Faith Formal Attire is open by appointment. Contact the ministry by calling the Faith Community Church office at 356-5476.

The ministry also accepts donations of gently worn formal clothing.