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April 4, 2020


We’ve all heard the inventive term coined by iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel, The Little Black Dress. It’s the quintessential item every woman arms her wardrobe with, yet for some that one black dress or article of clothing is the only thing they have to wear from their closet.

In a collective effort, paralegal Whitney Hill and attorney Khrystyne Smith, in our Charlotte office and members of The Junior League of Charlotte, Inc. (JLC), embarked on a week-long campaign to raise awareness and shed light on poverty.

As part of The Junior League of Charlotte’s focus and mission of school-readiness and educational needs, The Little Black Dress Initiative is unique in that it calls advocates to wear one black dress for five consecutive days to demonstrate the lack of choice and resources for those restricted by poverty.

“It’s not just about wearing the same dress for five days. [It’s] a chance for us… to discuss the needs in our community and what we can do to help,” says Whitney, the incoming Executive Vice President-Elect of The Junior League of Charlotte.

50,000 children in the Mecklenburg County live in poverty and only 5,000 of those children are in the Mecklenburg school system. These children face homelessness and housing instability, which stunts their ability to thrive in school.

JLC’s Initiative plays an important part in educating the community of issues that are impacting not only the children in Mecklenburg County but an issue that impacts the future of our next generation.

In an effort to spark conversation and spread the message, Whitney and Khrystyne created their own fundraising pages, and used social media as a platform, sharing photos from each day in their black dress, inviting others in the community to join in the dialogue.

“If I was able to spark a conversation with a simple black dress and accomplish my goal, imagine what impact we can have as an entire League,” says Khrystyne, a committee member of JLC’s Public Policy Institute.

The true power of a fundraising campaign doesn’t just lay on the impact it has on its recipients but also on the impact it has on the advocates themselves, through reflection.

“I am fairly blessed so it’s a good chance to remind myself of what those in the community we serve are dealing with regularly,” says Whitney.

Whitney, Khrystyne and the 109 members who participated in this year’s Little Black Dress Initiative collected a total of just under $40,000 which will help fund the work and community efforts of JLC and 14 of its community partners in Mecklenburg.

What began as a fundraising campaign in Junior League of London in 2014 spread to other leagues around the world. Since its start in 2015, The Junior League of Charlotte has raised a total of over $235,000 through the Little Black Dress.

The Junior League of Charlotte, Inc. is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, to developing the potential of women and to improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. The JLC was founded in 1926 and in its over 90 years, has provided more than 1.6 million hours of volunteer service and more than $13.7 million to the community. The JLC membership includes over 1,700 volunteer members in the Charlotte and surrounding communities