Nonprofit grants prom-goers wishes
In a corner of the Christians United Outreach Center of Lee County facility, dozens of prom dresses line the clothing racks in a pale pink room — awaiting local high school girls in need.
CUOC, a nonprofit that distributes food and clothing for community families, is soliciting prom dresses, shoes, jewelry, accessories and makeup, among other items, for its Second-Chance Prom Gown Program. Guidance counselors from Lee County High School and Southern Lee High School identify girls in need of financial assistance and they are invited to select prom dresses from CUOC's collections of gowns at no cost to the girls, said Executive Director Teresa Dew Kelly.
"The prom is a major life experience for a girl in high school," Kelly said. "To not to be able to experience being a princess and having a special night with her peers because of finances is sad. And if we can do something to help eliminate the cost of doing that, the better."
CUOC accepts prom dress donations year round, Kelly said, but with prom season around the corner, this is when most of the donations are collected. After the girls are identified by the guidance counselors, they get an appointment for a day in March when they can look over the dresses for a fitting, she said.
"The proms for the two high schools are in April," Kelly said. "We want to give them enough time for any alterations that may be needed. When you receive a borrowed gown, it is going to need a hem there or tuck there."
All donations to CUOC are tax-deductible, Kelly said, and businesses are also encouraged to donate their services. Already some bridal shops donate dresses after the prom season and some salons offer raffles for discounted hair and makeup packages, she said. Financial donations are also accepted to purchase a dress in case a girl can't find a dress in her size, Kelly said.
Darlene Adams, an instructional assistant at Lee County High School, helps run the Second-Chance Prom Gown Program. She said the program's services are vital for many local students.
"It will really help the girls who can't afford a gown for prom," she said. "Anything that can be offered really helps them out."
The program has been up and running for many years, Kelly said, and came from a need of the families CUOC served.
"We started thinking about our clients who had children in high school," she said. "If they are coming here for food, they can't very well go out and spend $200 on a prom dress."
Donations can be dropped off at the CUOC facility and thrift store, located at 2885 Lee Ave., Kelly said.
"There are many girls in the community who can't afford a dress," she said. "What a better way to put a smile on a girl's face."
CUOC Executive Director Teresa Dew Kelly talks about the importance of the Second-Chance Prom Gown Program.