NEW PORT RICHEY — It's getting close to prom time, so once again Donna Leonard's office is filling up with dress donations. Long and short, frilly and silky, little black and flaming red, puffy and clingy — you name it, she's got most of it hanging all over the place.
As of last week, Leonard had amassed 35 formal frocks and was expecting to pass on the usual 50 or more to the Cinderella Project. Leonard, who works as registrar at Ridgewood High School and serves as sponsor for the school's Interact Club, has been at it for eight years now. That's when Laurie Weiss and Alison Crumbley, now a School Board member, brought the Cinderella Project to Pasco County.
The idea to provide new and gently used dresses to those in financial need came from a similar effort in Pinellas County, Weiss said. "Most of the dresses we get are collected at the local high schools," said Weiss, who makes the rounds to pick them up and bring them to a central location in Odessa so high school students throughout the county can shop for their free prom ensemble.
"I really love this cause. It really helps so many girls, so many families, in the county," said Leonard, who has also received some donated suits that she'll pass on to the guys. "This is a low-income school so this affords a lot of my girls the opportunity to come to prom. Tickets to the prom alone this year are $65, so if they don't have to pay $100 to $200 for a dress, they can go."
The Cinderella Project has provided dresses to some 1,000 students since it began, Weiss said. "And the great thing is, many of those girls donate the dresses back. They don't have to — we tell them they are welcome to keep them if they want."