Monday, July 13, 2020
July 13, 2020

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Project Cinderella all about beautiful formalwear on a budget

Charitable program lets students dress for big events at little or no cost

By , Columbian Arts & Features Reporter
12 Photos
Selena Sanchez, 16, searches for a prom dress with her mother, Jessica Rongone, Saturday during the Project Cinderella event at Evergreen High School in Vancouver.
Selena Sanchez, 16, searches for a prom dress with her mother, Jessica Rongone, Saturday during the Project Cinderella event at Evergreen High School in Vancouver. (Roberto Rodriguez for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

In the legend of Cinderella, a fairy godmother waves her wand and makes magic: Her humble client is suddenly outfitted in a beautiful gown and provided a pumpkin limousine to the prince’s ball.

In reality, volunteers from many local high schools’ National Honor Societies provided the magic that will make their peers look great as they head for proms, performances and other upcoming special events where you need to look your very best.

Project Cinderella, an annual charitable project led by NHS volunteers from high schools all over Clark County, turned Evergreen High School’s cafeteria into a swanky formalwear boutique on Saturday — except for the prices, which were completely non-swanky. All dresses and suit jackets cost $10, and if you made a purchase you were also welcome to browse for free accessories like jewelry and shoes. If you brought a clothing donation, you could simply exchange it and leave with something new to you.

“We didn’t want financial limitations to keep kids from going to the prom,” said Evergreen teacher and Honor Society adviser Jeremiah Jessey. “It started out prom dresses, but it’s grown into something for guys and parents too. A woman found her ideal wedding dress here last year.”

“When you hear, `Mom, I want to go to the prom,’ you know that’s going to cost $180 or $230 or who knows?” said Evergreen parent volunteer Cristina Kennington. “Not everyone can spend that kind of money. But here you can spend $10 and look as good, if not better, than a kid who went to the mall.

“This allows kids to feel good about themselves — and they don’t have to wear Mom’s old dress,” Kennington said.

But because these were largely donations, “Mom’s old dress” actually could be found on Project Cinderella racks. Macayla Goins, a sophomore at Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School, turned up her nose at one tired-looking outfit discovered by volunteer Edith Barba — it looked like it came from Goodwill, Goins said — but her eyes popped at some other flowing red outfits that would be perfect for her school’s red carpet prom theme this year, she said.

“You could spend hundreds of dollars for a dress for one night. It’s not worth it,” said Goins as she lined up to try on options in one of several changing rooms specially set up for the occasion. Evergreen’s Project Cinderella boutique also featured volunteer assistants costumed as princes and princesses, magic-castle table settings, princess decorations on the walls and romantic Disney ballads in the air — all contributing to that special feeling of pre-prom excitement, Kennington said. That’s a far cry from shopping at Goodwill, even if the prices are about the same, she said.

Also lined up to try on dresses was Evergreen student April Minnifield — who also clutched a leafy, glittery green costume that looked appropriate for Tinkerbell. “It’s really a joke between me and a friend,” she said. “I like sparkly things.” A few minutes later, Minnifield herself was sparkling as she emerged from a dressing room in a scarlet floor-length gown.

The proceeds always go back to student needs, Jessey said; this year the beneficiaries will be Evergreen High School’s choir and National Honor Society, and “Random Acts of Kindness” at Henrietta Lacks.

At last year’s Project Cinderella, Kennington said, approximately 100 dresses went out the door with happy customers; after Saturday’s event she reported bigger results: 250 people visited, 150 dresses and suits left the building (50 of them free, in exchange for donations) and $1,050 was raised.