Ashley Wilson embraces community service winner Molly Anne Lindsey, who brought in 786 donated items for Curt’s Closet. (Photo courtesy Alabama Pageants)
CULLMAN – If you think beauty pageants are just about makeup, hairspray and posing, read on. A pageant here in Cullman County has defied the stereotype, including in its competition a community service component that resulted in a huge boost to a popular local charity.
Curt’s Closet, started by Ashley Lee Wilson to honor the memory of her son Curtis, who died in a 2017 automobile accident, provides all types of clothing and accessories for kids of families in need. Wilson accepts donations of “lightly used” items, but seeks new undergarments, for obvious reasons.
For this past weekend’s Miss Cullman Area Pageant, contestants were challenged to bring in donations of those badly needed items, and they rose to that challenge beyond anything event coordinator/host Tonya Hall had imagined, donating 1,663 articles to Curt’s Closet. Of those, 786 items came from one contestant, Molly Anne Lindsey, who received the pageant’s Community Service Award for her work.
On Sunday afternoon, Hall talked to The Tribune about her decision to feature Curt’s Closet:
“My relationship with Ashley- (I) didn’t know her before Curt was killed, but I worked in the school system for two years as a temporary aide, and Curt was in my classroom. And so, I was working at the high school when Curt was killed and had him in class.
“And I was working with the baseball coach, and of course Curt played baseball. So it was kind of two-fold for me, because I was watching the baseball team and the baseball coach go through this process of losing Curt. I was going through this process of–I wasn’t prepared to lose a student. And he’s such a great kid: he’s just the funniest guy ever. And then, trying to be there for the students and his classmates. And then, I had a daughter that was in the school also. She’s a junior, and so she’s a year behind Curt.
“But when I decided to do this pageant, then I wanted to do something for Curt’s Closet. So we allocated our community service portion of the pageant, where we try and encourage and enlighten girls and their families about causes in the community, and encourage them to give back, so it’s not just about 'me, me, me.'”
Hall praised Lindsey’s achievement, and went on to say of the other girls, “We had some little girls that brought in 200, 300 items. One little girl had relatives mailing her undergarments from Pennsylvania. Amazing that they all got so behind that.
“It’s just important for people to know that pageants aren’t always about a hairstyle, dress and makeup. It’s about girls that have really big hearts being able to show that pageants can have a purpose, too. When they enter the Miss Alabama/Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen system, they have to have a platform that is a community service-based platform, so I think that it’s a good opportunity, at this age, to expose them to those things, if they want to pursue pageantry at another level and start getting some of that in their mind: that there is more out there that they can do with their time and their talents besides 'me, me, me.'
“I think those little girls showed yesterday that they have some really big hearts. A lot of them had no idea what Curt’s Closet was until I introduced Curt’s Closet to them. And then some of them took donations of other things directly to Curt’s Closet, because I shared with them what Curt’s Closet was. So Ashley messaged me before and said, ‘Hey, we’ve already got some donations. I know you’re giving these girls credit.’
“There were a lot of people in the pageant that weren’t from Cullman. There were people from Addison, there were people from Spanish Fort, there were people from Oneonta. And so, I think it was good exposure for Curt’s Closet, and for Ashley and Curt.”
Ashley Wilson responds to gift
Wilson attended Saturday’s Pageant at Etha Baptist Church, to receive the donations and meet the girls who had brought them. On Sunday, she told The Tribune:
“The donations of the new undergarments from Miss Cullman Area Pageant will make a huge impact for so many children that come into Curt's Closet. I have met many families that are thrilled we offer new undergarments and socks. These items are so expensive; most families tell me they do without or only know what it is like to have hand-me-downs undergarments. No child should have to go without these items or wear used undergarments. I was blown away with how many items the pageant collected, 1,663! I left there with a car load of new undergarments and tears of joy streaming down my face.”
How is Curt’s Closet doing these days?
“God is blessing Curt's Closet every time I blink,” said Wilson. “He sends me angels with exactly what our needs are at the time. In the weeks leading up to start of school, Curt's Closet saw nearly 200 children; with our recent seasonal switch to fall/winter, we anticipate that many and more in the upcoming weeks. We have so many coats, pullovers and items to keep these children warm throughout the upcoming cold months.”
Curt's Closet, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, can always use tax-deductible monetary donations to cover expenses. Wilson said she can still use new undergarments and socks in adult sizes for older teenagers, as well as school shoes, which seem to leave the boutique almost as fast as they arrive. Find how to get in touch at the end of this story.
The Miss Cullman Area Pageant
The Miss Cullman Area Pageant offers prizes to contestants from babies to high school seniors in nine age groups and multiple categories. This weekend’s pageant winners included:
Baby Miss 0-11 months
Queen – Charli Claire Golden
1st Alternate – Kinsley Mae Brooks
Most Photogenic – Charli Claire Golden
Prettiest Eyes – Amaya Gomez
Best Dress – Charli Claire Golden
Prettiest Hair – Ava Claire Pettit
Prettiest Smile – Kinsley Mae Brooks
Tiny Miss 12-23 months
Queen – Sadie Jolee Alexander
1st Alternate – Ella James Buckner
Most Photogenic – Sadie Jo Alexander
Prettiest Eyes – Ella James Buckner
Best Dress – Briley Drake
Prettiest Hair – Sadie Jo Alexander
Prettiest Smile – Skyla Rose Houpt
Petite Miss 2-3 years
Queen – Elaina Weigand
1st Alternate – Alaina Pearce
2nd Alternate – Brynleigh Drake
Most Photogenic – Lillian Edwards
Prettiest Eyes – Anna Kate Underwood
Best Dress – Maggie Reid Miller
Prettiest Hair – Elaina Weigand
Prettiest Smile – Brynleigh Drake
Precious Miss 4 years-Kindergarten
Queen – Hogan Ordis
Alternates – Averi Terry and Lois Ann Jennings
Prettiest Eyes – Lois Ann Jennings
Best Dress – Hogan Ordis
Prettiest Hair – Averi Terry
Prettiest Smile – Averi Terry
Little Miss 1st-2nd Grade
Queen – Amelia Clyde
1st Alternate – Karington Ray Harper
2nd Alternate – Jantzen Litchford
Most Photogenic – Jantzen Litchford
Prettiest Eyes – Karrington Ray Harper
Best Dress – Amelia Clyde
Prettiest Hair – Jantzen Litchford
Prettiest Smile – Mary Ottilige
Beautiful Miss 3rd-4th Grade
Queen – Rylee Jade Williamson
1st Alternate – Caroline Grace Dowdy
Most Photogenic – Rylee Jade Williamson
Prettiest Eyes – Norah Bridges
Best Dress – Rylee Jade Williamson
Prettiest Hair – Caroline Grace Dowdy
Prettiest Smile – Molly Ann Lindsey
Pre-Teen Miss 5th-6th Grade
Queen – Katie Bartlett
1st Alternate – Kaylee Neuschwander
Most Photogenic – Mattie Wisener
Prettiest Eyes – Mattie Wisener
Best Dress – Katie Bartlett
Prettiest Hair – Meri Kayte Flynn
Prettiest Smile – Kaylee Neuschwander
Junior Miss 7th-9th Grade
Queen – Sydney Clyde
1st Alternate – McKenna Pesola
Most Photogenic – Sydney Clyde
Prettiest Eyes – Sydney Clyde
Best Dress – McKenna Pesola
Prettiest Hair – Sierra Warnick
Prettiest Smile – Zoe Vincent
Miss 10th-12th Grade
Queen – Kaylee Johnson
1st Alternate – Meagan Brooke Miller
Most Photogenic – Cassidy Heinrich
Prettiest Eyes – Mattilen Nelson
Best Dress – Kaylee Johnson
Prettiest Hair – Meagan Brooke Miller
Prettiest Smile – Cassidy Heinrich
Look for a gallery of photos from the pageant on The Tribune’s Facebook page. Thanks to Alabama Pageants, Tonya Hall, and contestants’ parents for sharing with us.
For more on the Miss Cullman Area Pageant, visit www.facebook.com/pageantsinalabama/.
For more on Curt’s Closet, or to find out about helping or getting help, visit www.facebook.com/cw20curtscloset/ or call 256-735-4557.
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