Keri Byer’s goal was simple: Help one girl attend prom.

The girl was the daughter of Byer’s friend, who had fallen upon difficult times after her husband left her. In March 2006, Byer posted an ad on Craigslist, asking for donations of old dresses, jewelry — anything that would help make the evening special for her friend’s daughter.

The response was more than Byer had bargained for. Donations began pouring in.

“I became the crazy dress lady,” she said.

Byer opened Austin Fairy Godmother Boutique and began operating the nonprofit organization out of her in home in Leander, about 50 miles south of Fort Hood. The business has since expanded, and after noting an influx of customers from the Fort Hood area, Byer held a grand opening July 30 for a second location, Fort Hood Fairy Godmother Boutique, at 310 E. Avenue B in Killeen.

Deb Lambertson, the store’s operations manager, estimated that 60 percent of the boutique’s clientele came from the Fort Hood area, meaning they traveled between 50 and 60 miles for a less costly alternative to shops such as Dillard’s or David’s Bridal.

“We wanted to get as close to Fort Hood as we could,” Byer said. “They were having a hard time getting to us, and we knew we could help a lot more people if we could get up here.”

Fort Hood Fairy Godmother Boutique is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Women searching for formal wear can rent entire ensembles — including a dress, shoes, a purse and jewelry — for $45.

Lambertson said occasionally customers are moved to tears after finding appropriate attire without emptying their pockets.

“There are so many events that come up in your life that you are not prepared for,” Lambertson said. “Wearing something appropriate is not something that you should have to spend $100 on.”

Laurel Keller, of Temple, agreed. Keller, whose husband recently retired from the Army at Fort Hood, said she wished she had learned of a similar operation while growing up in San Antonio.

“They’re making dreams come true for people,” Keller said. “It’s a real-life Cinderella story.”

Conta​ct Erinn Callahan at or 254-501-7464.

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