December 1, 2019 Update from Addie

Standing in line, I awkwardly try to avoid eye contact with others as I ponder what’s going to happen when we get to the front. I’ve never been on this ride before; it’s new since the last time I was at Disneyland. Actually, I’ve never been to this part of Disney before, so it’s all new. Thankfully our friends are pros, so I know we’re in good hands. We get to the front of the line after winding up and down, backward and forward, then shuttle into an oversized elevator and sit down. We’re directed to put on our seatbelts and after a short video, the ride begins. At breakneck speed and shocking volume, the elevator lifts sharply, my heart beating out of my chest. It rises to the very top and for a moment we are weightless, then down again. No rhyme or reason to this thrill ride from what I can tell. But I know the conductor has a plan despite my heart’s fear that we will not survive. At the end we receive a picture of ourselves on the ride; my face is a mixture of exhilaration and sheer terror.

In many ways, Clothed in Dignity has been much like this ride at Disney. I had an idea of what to expect, but it’s been like no other ride in my entire life. For much of the time I’ve been fearful: not of the dresses or wearing them, but of what has been revealed to me during this time. 334 days of dresses, a drastic change from my previous wardrobe of jeans and sweatshirts. An intentionality with each day; what accessories to go with each outfit or soberly considering which shoes to wear. For a girl like me, not overly make-upped or fancy on a daily basis, this is like a baby deer learning to walk. Frequently I’ll go through four or five outfits before deciding on an item. It’s just one thing in my day; the rest of the day I go between a staff meeting at work, helping the high-schooler with her math, responding to emails, prepping dinner, and helping the kindergartner in the bathroom.

334 days of doing anything will begin to change a person. Only 31 days to go and I hope the changes that have already occurred will maintain for years to come. With every day I wear a dress this year, approximately $30 will go to Peoria Home. A metaphor for a woman’s time at Peoria Home: it’s personal, it’s challenging, and it’s life-changing.

It’s been an honor to do this challenge on behalf of Peoria Home.

10/31/19 ~ Day 303 in the Clothed in Dignity challenge for 2019 coincided with my 38th birthday.

The year is winding down, but I know there is still much work to do for ending the challenge well, in addition to getting through the holidays. Still over 60 days left to wear a dress and complete the challenge. Each day that I do so I earn $32 for Peoria Home, which is totaling almost $12,000 for the whole year. I am hopeful that the holiday season will inspire generosity toward Peoria Home via Clothed in Dignity.

As I finish strong, I hope people will see the dedication that has gone into such a project. My labor of love and self-discovery has mirrored the laborious work a woman must do in her recovery and dedication in a program such as Peoria Home. For me, it has been learning how to be kinder to myself than I have ever been. Giving myself the permission to not do what others expect of me, or what I expect of myself. Sleep more, eat more, rest more. A woman walking the hard road of recovery, healing from addiction and exploitation, gets to learn similar things. Kindness to herself, which is going to take a lot of time and safe people along her journey.

I didn’t expect to discover these things in the dress challenge. It’s been a blessing to me as much as it’s benefited and raised funds for Peoria Home.

I hope this project would spark similar fundraisers, because who knows what can happen when you say “yes” to the good things!

Addie’s Clothed In Dignity Challenge began January 1, 2019~

I am Addie Gerlach. I am wife to Bill and mother of five precious children. I homeschool and work as Kids Ministry Director at my church.

I am doing a project for Peoria Home for the year 2019—wearing a dress every day. The purpose of this project is to raise awareness and funds for Peoria Home. Wearing a dress is unusual in our culture—the culture of jeans and leggings. Wearing a dress implies a reason (in my opinion), a special occasion. Wearing a dress is out-of-the-ordinary. I was inspired to wear a dress for a cause by the Dressember campaign, in which one wears a dress for the entire month of December, as a fundraiser for International Justice Mission. My mind took the challenge to another level, extending the challenge to 365 days and focused the support for Peoria Home exclusively.

In October 2018 I shared the project via my blog: and asked for pledges beginning January 1, 2019 for an amount-per-day gift to Peoria Home–$1, $2, $3. Many people pledged, and more giving one-time gifts during the project totaling about $11,000—about $32 per day. Each day I wear a dress or skirt, I am earning $32 for Peoria Home.

God, or my mind, gave me a number goal: $36,000. I wasn’t sure if the answer to my silent prayer would be yes or no, but the direction would be: do the project, no matter the reward.

I was prepared to receive zero dollars per day. It would be worth it to persevere for free. But it has been a great honor to advocate for Peoria Home and procure funds for such a worthy project. In the process I have learned many things about myself and about the experience of a woman survivor from trafficking, addiction, and prostitution. Mainly, empathy in the daily struggles of life. Wearing a dress everyday has painted normal things in a new light such as: riding a bike, swimming with my family, going camping. Doing all these things while carrying the weight of wearing a dress as given me insight into a woman survivor’s perspective on managing life’s demand’s while managing their recovery from exploitation and potential addiction.

I love this project because it is a way to help the cause by changing minds. In my experience, the general population can disconnect from such individuals who have the experience of trafficking and prostitution because “they chose it” or “they deserve it.” NO. Women and men affected by prostitution are our sisters and brothers. We can help in many ways, not just with our time, but with our attention and money.

Clothed in Dignity has allowed me to be a force for change while tending to my responsibilities as a wife and mother.

~ Addie