Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC student leads ‘Project Beauty’

Katie Nimtz of Eau Claire

Southwestern Michigan College student Katie Nimtz came by Project Beauty honestly. She reigned as 2012 Miss Eau Claire/Sodus and 2013 Berrien County Fair queen. One of her duties for the former title was leading off the hometown International Cherry Pit Spit.

A skill she took away from pageants besides self-confidence and public speaking was networking, which the commuter student continues to develop pursuing a public relations degree through SMC and Ferris State University.

Project Beauty is a community service event for women, particularly the high school set preparing for prom, looking for an affordable way to exchange formal and casual dresses, shoes, purses or jewelry.

Nimtz, 19, has spearheaded a Royal Dress Swap and Shop set for 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at Friends in Faith Community Church, 6550 Keigley St., Eau Claire.

“We want to impact girls going to prom because we know it costs a lot. Spending $400 for a formal dress is a lot of money for people in this economy who are struggling,” Nimtz said. “This branched off from when I was in eighth grade in Eau Claire. I saw girls wearing good slacks and nice shirts or suits. I thought to myself, ‘Every girl deserves to feel like a princess when she goes to a dance.’ We did a small-scale swap in middle school. I wanted to do it in high school, but never found time because I was so active in extra-curriculars. I didn’t want to put it off any longer now that I have the connections to make this a bigger event. This is in Eau Claire, but we want to help everyone in southwest Michigan.”

Project Beauty also includes a guest speaker, former Miss St. Joseph Vanessa Gargano, co-lead pastor at Road to Life Church in Chesterton, Ind., refreshments and a raffle with prizes that include a self-facial kit, a self-manicure kit, a prom-day photo shoot, gift certificates to Affinity Salon and Spa in St. Joseph, a gift certificate to True Color Hair Studio in Berrien Springs and a Mary Kay makeover.

Gargano “is going to talk about girls being comfortable in their own skin,” Nimtz said.

Katie worked with fellow student Kirsten Novak of Dowagiac to push their message out by radio.

They created a Project Beauty Facebook page and will be selling T-shirts.

“Each girl who brings in a dress, that dress will get hung up,” Nimtz said, “so the more girls who come, the more dresses available. We want to do it every year, so next year she can swap and have a different dress. At the same time, you’ll benefit the whole community. People are still able to come and donate the day of the event. As a church, we want to show that God loves them. Psalm 45:11 says, ‘The King is enthralled by your beauty.’ ”

Nimtz selected SMC because it’s “close and affordable, just like its slogan. Everything I heard about SMC has shown itself. I love SMC.”

“I grew up on a farm, so keeping close to family is a big deal. I didn’t want to go to a huge state college and be thousands of dollars in debt, then start my career and not be able to get a house or a car. This is my second semester. After I get my Associate in Arts in 2015, I’ll transfer to Ferris State for my public relations degree. Ferris has public relations with a business degree rather than communications.”

“It’s not that I loved the spotlight” as fair queen, “but when you have something you’re passionate about, I’m comfortable with standing up. I want to make a difference in life. If it’s public relations, I want to work for a non-profit and make an impact. I had done chickens since I was 5. My dad volunteered in the poultry barn since I can remember. Probably when my brother, who’s four years older, started. My dad was the guy to bear hug turkeys to carry them across and make sure everyone’s in line for showing and the auction. We did pigs a couple of years and I showed a cow and did numerous still exhibits. We always exhibited things from our garden.”