WEDDINGTON There were gorgeous gowns.
There were shoes and jewels. Hair and makeup, too.
But what really lit up the Weddington High School cafeteria Saturday afternoon were the dazzling smiles of about 125 prom-bound girls who felt as beautiful as they already were.
Just in time for the prom season that begins next month, the Prom Project offered more than 600 gently used or new prom dresses, shoes, jewelry, hairstylists and makeup artists for free to girls from low-income families. The project was created three years ago by the Weddington-based Closet Ministry clothing charity.
“I’ve never considered myself that pretty,” said Emily Richards, a 17-year-old junior from Lancaster High School in nearby South Carolina. She was in a metallic-silver gown with her hair braided and her eyes lined with sparkling silver. “But everyone here keeps telling me how beautiful I am, and it makes me want to cry.”
The girls felt like they were Cinderella for the day.
“I like the fact that it looks like a princess dress,” said Angela Warfel, a senior at Parkwood High School in Monroe, in her lavender strapless A-line. “I want to look like a princess.”
The girls were required to come with their mothers or a female guardian to promote mother-daughter bonding.
Alisha Newton, also a Parkwood senior, shopped for a “grown-up” formal dress for the first time Saturday with her mom, Lisa Newton. She chose a tiered purple gown and found matching shoes.
“I’m blessed I get a dress to wear,” Alisha said. And she’ll get to wear it twice because in addition to her own prom, she’s escorting someone who will attend the Joy Prom at Carmel Baptist Church in Matthews, which invites people with special needs.
Some girls said yes to the dress after the first try, but others took a few – or more – tries before they found the right one.
Making the night special
Kristen Williams, a junior at Central Academy in Monroe, tried on 14 dresses until deciding on a bright pink one-shoulder dress. Her sister, Shay Starnes, a senior at Parkwood, decided on her black-and-white gown in just one go.
Their mother, Melinda Williams, said it was all worthwhile.
“This is really awesome for the girls,” she said. “It gives them confidence about how they look instead of having them worry about what they might have had to get instead. It’s a really good thing.”
Katie Rivers, who is good friends with Emily Richards and is also a junior at Lancaster, got her long tresses curled by a stylist after she found her light pink dress.
Katie said she was thankful for the volunteers – there were about 100 – who helped her search for the right dress. “If it weren’t for the help of other people, I would’ve given up,” she said.
Her mom, Holly Rivers, said she really appreciated the Closet Ministry’s efforts to make girls’ prom experiences special.
“Times are tough in Lancaster,” she said. “To know your child can go to prom (in a nice dress) is wonderful.”
Lana Lamkin, Closet Ministry’s executive director, called this year’s Prom Project a success. She said she was happy that more girls came to get dresses this year than the 90 who attended last year.
The best part of it all, she said, was seeing “their faces light up when it’s all put together in one package at the end. Because they’re beautiful.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294, On Twitter: @lruebens
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