'Fairy godmothers' provide prom dresses for high school students

A thousand prom dresses will be available for high school girls to sort through this weekend, and if the girls find something they like, it’s theirs for free.

Cinderella’s Closet returns to Aberdeen this weekend, Friday, March 2 from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 3 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Comfort Inn at 980 Hospitality Way in Aberdeen.

“We have 1,000 dresses. Some are brand new, the tags still on them, some are $300 to $$00,” Sandy Pierce, a member of the Aberdeen Lions/Lioness Club, said. “Others have been born only one time and then hang in the closet.”

Pierce’s daughter, Danielle, was working on her Girl Scout Gold Award eight years ago with two friends, Becky Sawyers and Brittany Lozzi, when Cinderella’s Closet was started.

“We helped them do their project,” Pierce said. “They did the legwork and we helped them with the giveaway.”

The girls stopped working on it after they graduated high school, but the Lions/Lioness Club took it over and has been doing it ever since, she said.

“Because prom is so expensive, with a dress, tickets, hair… everything is so expensive, there are some girls who can’t go,” Pierce said.

Her daughter, who is now 25, saw a similar project someplace else and thought it would be a good Gold Award Project.

“We just loved it. The mothers that come with the girls, they’re just so thankful – we’re kind of like fairy godmothers,” Pierce said. “You just know the girls really appreciate them, the moms really appreciate them.”

Some of the girls picking out dresses, or their parents, make donations that are put back into Cinderalla’s Closet, a non-profit organization.

In the eight years running Cinderella’s Closet, Pierce and other organizers have it down to a science.

“The first year was hard. The girls weren’t really able to get the word out,” Pierce said. “As the years go by, we have perfected it. We know how to get it out there.”

They send letters and flyers to all the high schools in Harford and Cecil counties and have them pass them along to the girls.

With 1,000 to put on the racks, the Lion/Lioness Club only gives away 150 to 175 each year, she said.

Dresses are available to girls anywhere, not just Harford and Cecil counties.

“We will give them to girls from any place, Baltimore, Pennsylvania,” Pierce said.

All the girls have to do is provide a school ID card or something else to indicate they are in school, she said.

Dresses come from various places, including donations boxes around the county, including Amanda’s Florist in Havre de Grace, Heart to Heart Hair Studio in Aberdeen, K&B Bridal in Bel Air and Salon 1401 in Bel Air.

Lion/Lioness members carefully sort through all the donated dresses. Typically, Pierce said, they’ll only display dresses from the last three to five years, because girls want a dress that’s in style.

“We have gotten some doozies,” she said.

Dresses they can’t use they’ll give to the local high schools to be used by the drama clubs.

This year about 300 short dresses were donated to Mount Zion Church in Bel Air, which recently hosted “Night to Shine,” a prom for people with special needs who get free dress, limousine rides and hair and makeup before a night of dancing.

Other places donate dresses, Pierce said. Stella’s Bridal, in Delaware, and K&B Bridal.

When it’s not prom season, the dresses have to be stored. For several years, a Bel Air storage place provided a free 10-by-10 foot storage facility, then the Lion/Lioness club paid for storage. This year, an Abingdon storage facility, Paca & Associates LP, is allowing the dresses to be stored there.

All the donations and in-kind services really help a non-profit like the Lion/Lioness Club, Pierce said.

“Donations are very helpful to help with the costs we incur, like truck rental to transport dresses, purchase of garment bags to put chosen dresses in for girls to take home and cost of signage,” she said.

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