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Heather Siewell holds dresses for the Glass Slipper Project that are now stored in her Central Point home's garage. (Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune)

Vision continues for prom dress project

As devoted as a certain prince known for his diligence with a tiny glass slipper, volunteers for a three-year-old project to provide prom dresses for high school girls in need won’t give up on their vision of helping local teens have a magical time at prom.

Almost doomed to a not-so-happy ending this spring after canceling a dress giveaway for 2018, the Glass Slipper Project of Southern Oregon will return bigger and better for the next school year, organizers said.

The project was founded in 2016 when Central Point resident Larina Howard responded to a social media post from a young girl asking for help finding a purple dress in order to go to prom.

Touched by the teen’s request, Howard found a local nonprofit to pay for the dress and got makeup and hair-styling donated to ensure the student would have a memorable prom experience.

“When I saw it, I thought, ‘I have to have friends with old dresses. All this girl wants is a purple dress. I didn’t think it would happen the way it did, but my phone just blew up with so many people wanting to help this girl and to donate something to her,” Howard said.

“I thought, ‘I think we have something here.’”

After extending the prom dress resource the following prom season to dozens of girls, Howard said, rapid growth and an influx of donations created serious issues with limited storage, managing donations and coordinating giveaway events.

“At one point we had more than 300 dresses,” Howard said.

“Every day, there were boxes on my porch filled with dresses people had donated.”

Faced with ending the project, Central Point resident Heather Siewell, an early supporter of the project, recently agreed to take over. While donations have been steady, Siewell said the key to sustaining the project was to create a nonprofit — which she’s working on — and come up with a long-range plan to ensure the project can be self-sustaining.

“I’ve been involved since the beginning, so I have a feel for it already. Getting donations going again is the big thing right now. Once I get the (nonprofit status), I’ll be able to go out and fundraise and, besides the donated dresses, buy new dresses in bulk to give to the girls.”

Siewell said the focus of the project will stay the same and will continue to be offered on an honor system to girls referred to the project.

“Many girls today have so many pressures. It is awesome to be able to put a smile on their face and ease a burden for even just a moment,” she said.

“We have never verified income, and we still won’t. Sometimes people need help that you don’t know need help. There are times where you don’t look like you need help, but you desperately do. The goal is to have girls go to prom, and the biggest expense is the dress. So that’s what we do.”

Howard, who will remain involved in a different capacity, is excited to see the project continue.

“When I started this, I worked a part-time job and it was fun, so I could do both, but it grew beyond what I think anyone ever expected. Now I work full-time, so I’m so happy that Heather was able to step in and keep it going,” Howard said.

“Just like when we started, it would just break my heart to know that somebody couldn’t go to prom because they couldn’t afford a dress.

“I feel like this valley, whenever somebody is in need, they just step up and help. That’s why this got started and why it grew so much. I’m so excited to see that it will continue.”

For more information, find The Glass Slipper Project of Southern Oregon on Facebook.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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