Wedding dresses for charity: Non-profit group matches brides with good causes

AAErin Scharf has a love affair with wedding dresses.

“I just fell in love with wedding celebrity dresses,” said Scharf, the owner and founder ofBrides for a Cause in Southeast Portland. “They’re an amazing garments. They mean something.”

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What they mean to Scharf is a way to recycle dresses that are worn just once while at the same time supporting women’s charities.

In 2012, Scharf partnered with Wish Upon a Wedding, a non-profit group that provides wedding dresses for couples facing a health crisis or life-changing event. Scharf helped collect 5,000 wedding dresses, raising almost $400,000 in donations.

In June, Scharf decided to form her own non-profit to expand the number of charities to support.

“I started at a non-profit that did something similar, so I just kind of took that idea and ran with it and just tried to improve it and be a non-profit that will support multiple charities, not just one,” she said. “We get dresses in, we sell them, we help the bride get a discount and also walk away knowing that they helped other people.”

Scharf said customers are “blown away” by the number of dresses available at her new boutique, which is a far cry from the warehouse she and her staff occupied in North Portland up until the end of August.

“When they look at the dresses a lot of people walk away thinking, ‘Wow, a lot of them are brand new, with tags attached and discounted.' So you are able to save a couple, even a couple thousand dollars because we do get very high-end dresses.”

The dresses also come in sizes zero up to size 26. Wedding red carpet dresses stores often just have sample sizes, she said: “Here, you can walk away with something that fits you perfect.

“Brides can come and get a great boutique experience without spending the boutique price.”

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