According to figures from the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way — Bismarck-Mandan's United Way chapter — one in five people living in Bismarck-Mandan do not have enough money to meet their basic needs. These needs can include things people take for granted, such as adequate food, housing and hygiene supplies.

While no one likes to admit it, appearances play a key role when making a first impression. That provides a challenging hurdle for those battling to make ends meet, and who may not have work appropriate attire, or may only have one outfit and a limited means to keep their clothes fresh and clean.

"Imagine wearing the same outfit all week while trying to interview for jobs," MSA United Way operations manager Amber Ruzicka said. "It's hard. And if you don't have multiple outfits to choose from, chances are you don't have easy access to a washer and dryer either."

It was with that in mind that MSA United Way launched its Little Black Dress campaign five years ago. MSA research found that:

  • Every student who does not complete high school costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity.
  • Only 35 percent of youth in Bismarck-Mandan feel they have a positive adult role model.

The Little Black Dress campaign seeks to specifically help low-income families gain stability as well as ensure the children in these families are given the opportunity at gaining a good education.

As part of the campaign, teams of six can sign up to wear the same black dress — or outfit of their choosing —from September 17-20. Each team has a goal of raising $1,500, and over the past five years the campaign has raised over $250,000.

The campaign concludes Thursday, September 20, with a celebration starting at 6 p.m. at Bismarck State College's National Energy Center of Excellence Building. The event will have food and drink, live music, and a silent auction. Tickets for the event are  $40, with $25 of that going towards sponsoring a child in the United Way Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Those participating in the event are encouraged to take photos of their team and promote awareness on social media by using the #LittleBlackDress2018 hashtag.

Your business can still sign up to participate. If you are unable to attend the Little Black Dress Celebration Event or participate, you can still donate here.

For more information, you can check out the MSA chapter's website or call 701-255-3601 and ask for Amber.