"In the life of a young adult who is getting ready to graduate from high school, the prom is a milestone, so it's something they look forward to during their whole academic career," says Ondréa Burton. That's why Ebony Pugh and Dana Sheehan, who worked in the Allegheny County Office of Community Relations (part of the Department of Human Services) in 2003, created
that year to accept donations of formal wear and distribute it to eligible high-school students for free.
Through March 28, the project will be seeking donations of current fashions (in good, clean shape) from gowns to accessories such as handbags, wraps and jewelry, as well as unused items such as hosiery, makeup and earrings. Collections are taking place now at Monkeybiz in Wexford (10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday); in the first-floor lobby of the Human Service Building downtown (8 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday); and in the Project Prom Shop at Century III Mall in West Mifflin (10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. on March 2 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. March 15 and 18). One Enchanted Evening, The Winner and Anne Gregory are also all contributing gowns this year.
Kids who qualify -- those with a parent/guardian on unemployment, who receive a free school lunch or who have a family member receiving current DHS services -- can get a gown, or a certificate for a tux, at the Project Prom Shop on March 29-31. They've gone to 1,500 girls and 500 boys over the last 8 years. On April 6, the shop will hold a sale for items that proved outdated or inappropriate, which attracts everyone from women in search of bridesmaid dresses to local costumers.
Observes Burton: "We've been able to brighten a lot of girls' lives."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ondréa Burton, Department of Human ServicesImage courtesy of Department of Human Services