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Well, for one thing, it's the coolest high school newspaper in all the land. Watch our video and find out more.
Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY KATARINA BOJKOVIC, St. Petersburg Catholic High
Jaqi Adcock browsed through countless colorful dresses. One by one, she tried some on. The black and white one was definitely cute.
But then Adcock knew she had found the dress: giery orange, strapless sweetheart neckline, wide cummerbund and short skirt. She twirled, radiant.
“She looks just like a princess,” said Desire Austin. Austin and Erin Arflack couldn’t stop raving about how beautiful their friend looked. The three Dixie Hollins High sophomores had come to Belle of the Ball on a recent Saturday to shop for homecoming dresses.
“I heard about Belle from my teacher Mrs. Rockne,” Adcock said. “It was so fun shopping today, and looking at all of the pretty dresses.”
Visit any department store now and it’s impossible to miss the vast displays of pretty, glittery, shiny dresses fit for a homecoming queen. But when the average dress starts at about $60 and many reach past $150, however, a dream dress is nothing but a fairy tale for many girls in tough economic times.
That’s why Belle of the Ball is like a fairy godmother.
Belle of the Ball offers formal dresses, shoes, a purse and accessories for absolutely no charge (donations of $1 or more are appreciated but not required) to high school girls in need.
But girls must meet one of the following criteria: be eligible to receive free or reduced lunches at school; demonstrate current family financial difficulties; or be referred by a church, civic organization, school social worker, guidance counselor or principal, community involvement personnel, guardian or foster care representative.
Belle of the Ball was born in 2003 when Dunedin resident Susan Schwartz looked through her two daughters’ closets and took note of all the formal dresses that had only been worn once, for cotillions, proms or homecomings. “I thought, ‘What a waste. Somebody could really enjoy these dresses.’
“So I just came up with the idea: I could collect dresses from family and friends and give them to girls who couldn’t afford them.
“It started out of my house and has grown into a 4,000 square foot store,” Schwartz said, that now operates out of Unit 45 at the Seminole Mall, 11201 Park Blvd.
Belle of the Ball has given away more than 2,750 gently used or new dresses, Schwartz said, and depends on teen volunteers to help customers do the shopping during distribution dates during fall and spring.
“The most rewarding part of volunteering is definitely seeing the girls receive dresses who really need them,” said volunteer Emily Pingleton, a junior at St. Petersburg Catholic High. “It makes me appreciate all that I have, and it touches my heart.”
Schwartz smiled and agreed. “The most rewarding part is definitely seeing the smiles on the girls’s faces.”