“Some people cannot afford a big wedding, so donating dresses is something I can do for my community,” said Alexandra Fleear, owner of Ava Clara Couture Bridal in Virginia Beach. 40 brides-to-be were able to find their dream wedding dress at local Goodwill stores, thanks to the small business owner with a big heart.
Fleear first opened her bridal boutique in 2009. Her passion is making brides feel special on their big day, and she does not want anyone to feel left out because they are on a budget. “I feel good donating our excess gowns to Goodwill rather than trying to make a profit,” she said.
Her partnership with Goodwill started in 2012 when she wanted to donate her boutique’s discontinued gowns. Many of them were brand new or only used as samples. “I looked at a lot of organizations. I did my research and I liked Goodwill’s mission and the fact that money from their retail stores helps people find jobs,” Fleear said.
She worked with Roger Fournier, Goodwill’s donations coordinator for the Peninsula and Hampton Roads. “Alexandra calls us twice a year to donate. We make it easy for small business owners who want to donate to Goodwill by arranging transportation and coming to their location,” said Fournier.
Fleear appreciates the hassle-free process. “As a small business owner and a mom of a two-year old son, my time is limited. To have someone come to my boutique for the dresses is huge,” she said.
Fleear donated 40 bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses in mid-November. They were sent to Goodwill stores across Coastal Virginia, including the Princess Anne location on Lynnhaven Parkway. “A lot of people showed interest as soon as the dresses were on display,” said Angie Benton, Princess Anne’s retail operations manager. “We usually have only a few bridal dresses in the store, but this donation included 13 gowns,” she said.
Goodwill priced the bridal gowns, which each had a retail value of $1,000, at $150 and the bridesmaid and evening gowns were $50. “It’s amazing when one of our customers can find a wedding dress on a budget,” said Benton. “When I see someone buy a dress or any wedding décor at my store, it’s nice to know we helped them reach a goal while saving money.”
More than 85% of net revenue from Goodwill’s social enterprises goes toward funding workforce education and training services to individuals facing challenges to work – at no cost to the participants. Goodwill operates five community employment centers across Central and Coastal Virginia, creating pathways to opportunities and success for more than 17,000 individuals every year.
Fournier said donation partnerships can easily turn into employment partnerships. “We can build more relationships with local businesses who have employment needs, and we can provide workforce solutions by matching them with job-ready candidates,” he said.
Fleear also makes personal donations to Goodwill with items she no longer uses at home. “People keep a lot of stuff in storage, not realizing it could help others. There is no reason why you should not donate to Goodwill. It gives me inner peace to know I am doing the right thing,” she said.