Michelle Vernon was surprised at how good the dress felt when she slipped it on. Michelle, a blond soccer player with a slim but athletic body, never wears dresses. It was strapless, a lovely periwinkle blue satin, with beading at the top and then skimming her body till a flourish at the bottom, just enough of a kick that made Michelle want to twirl.
"This will be my first prom," she said Saturday, as she stood holding her dress in a Trinity parking lot with her grandmother, mother, two aunts and a cousin. Michelle, 18 and a senior at River Ridge High School, didn't think she could afford to go. But then her grandmother, Willa German, was at the doctor's office and talking with a nurse about how she wanted Michelle to attend the dance but worried how the family would come up with the hundreds of dollars it costs, including the dress, shoes, jewelry, hair, nails, dinner. The nurse grabbed a newspaper and showed German one thing that could help: an announcement for the Cinderella Project, which started four years ago in Pasco County and donates new and gently used dresses, accessories and shoes to young women for prom. There also is a Prince Charming Project that helps young men get $75 coupons for tuxedos.
More than 120 girls were helped by the project last year.
"It's about making these girls feel special," said Laurie Weiss, one of the organizers. The Project has two locations — one at the Shops of Longleaf, 3410 Town Ave. in Trinity, and Calvary Assembly of God, 13544 U.S. 98 Bypass in Dade City. They will be open again from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the last day this season. Girls need to bring only a school ID. For more information, call (727) 858-1281.
No young woman leaves without a dress, Weiss said. There are hundreds from which to choose and volunteers to help find the right one, though Michelle didn't need much more of an audience as she tried on dozens of dresses because five of her relatives were there. After two hours of searching and then finding the dress she always dreamed of, Michelle seemed tired, but happy.
"She'll look like a princess," said her aunt, Shannon Elzey.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4609.
Dresses and tuxes
The Cinderella Project, which provides high school girls with free prom dresses, shoes and accessories donated by the community, will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. This will be the last day the project will be open this year. The only thing the girls must bring is a school ID. The project sites will be open at Shops of Longleaf, 3410 Town Ave. in Trinity, and Calvary Assembly of God, 13544 U.S. 98 Bypass in Dade City.
There also is a Prince Charming Project that helps young men with the cost of prom wear. Those who qualify can get a coupon for $75 off a tuxedo at Sacino's Formal Wear. The money comes from three places: $25 from the Prince Charming Project, $25 from the Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union and $25 from Sacino's Formal Wear.
For information about the projects, call (727) 858-1281.