Dress donations to help Cinderellas dance in style

Feb. 23—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — With the perfect dress every girl can feel like the belle of the ball.

The annual Cinderella Project will provide prom gowns and accessories to area high school students from noon to 3 p.m. March 4 and 18 at YWCA Greater Johnstown, 526 Somerset St. in the Kernville section of Johnstown.

Sherri Rae, program coordinator, said since its inception, the program has been able to provide prom dresses to around 1,500 young women.

"There's a lot of pressure for high school students that prom is something they have to do, but it's expensive and dresses cost several hundred dollars and a lot of families don't have that, so we want to make sure it's achievable for everybody who wants to go can go," she said.

Rae said the organization typically gives out 100 dresses each year, and girls are coming from Cambria, Somerset, Indiana, Blair and Westmoreland counties to find their perfect dress.

"The local girls are still the largest percentage, but we do have girls from all over," she said. "We rely a lot on social media to help spread the word."

Once inside, the girls check in on the first floor. They have racks of dresses to choose from on the third floor and use dressing rooms on the second and third floors.

Girls have a volunteer assigned to them who help them throughout the trying-on process.

"We have girls who will come as early as 10 or 10:30 to line up to be in the first group," Rae said. "We can take about 10 to 12 girls at a time. They can take up to five dresses at a time to the dressing room, and we have volunteers who will help them pick out and carry dresses. They can try on as many as they need to until they find one they like."

If a girl selects a dress, she will be able to choose accessories such as shoes, jewelry and handbags.

Beauty bags with health and wellness products will be available while supplies last.

Rae said this year's inventory is bursting at the seams with dresses, and has a varied range of sizes from 0 to 30 in numerous styles.

"We've always made the commitment that if a girl comes to us for a dress and can't find the size that she needs we will work with her to possibly purchase one with the funds we've had donated," Rae said.

Rae said the goal is to make the girls feel special when they come to try on dresses.

"When you go dress shopping you get treated like a princess with people fussing over you making sure the dress is fluffed out, and we do the same," she said. "We want them to feel that special moment of when they look in the mirror and say, 'This is the dress.' For some of these girls, this is the first time they've had a formal dress on and there are others who are not used to wearing dresses, so we want to help them find the dress that looks right on them."

Those attending are asked to bring identification, such as a driver's license, student ID or report card, to show they are a high school student.

No proof of income is required.

Monetary donations to the program can be made to the Johnstown Cinderella Project Fund through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies or YWCA Greater Johnstown.

A Cinderella Project Amazon wish list has been set up for those interested in purchasing dresses and accessories for the program.

Information on volunteering for try-on days can be found on the Cinderella Project's Facebook page.

For more information, call 814-536-3519.