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Nonprofit plans fundraiser May 19-20

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

May 2, 2018 (El Cajon) -- The Princess Project, an organization that matches up the right high school prom dress with the right high school student for free, came to the County of San Diego-El Cajon Library branch on April 30th.  The nonprofit provides free dresses and accessories to high school students who cannot otherwise afford them.

“We love the partnering that we have with the El Cajon library,” said Karen Martin, president of The Princess Project.

 Miko Osada, Librarian I with the County of San Diego, said “We have done this for at least the last five years.”

The Princess Projects sets up a day that registered individuals can come to a location and pick up a free prom gown.  Note, males and non-conforming individuals are also welcome to get a dress per their gown giveaway rules. The giveaway days were held in April in various locations around the county.

“We always pull a range of many sizes and styles,” said Martin during the event. “We have 550 dresses today.” According to Osada they had 150 teens registered to select a dress that day.  The participant must be in grades 9-12. 

“We get the dresses from boutiques and the community,” noted Martin.  Per Osada the sizes range from 0-32. 

Contributors to the effort included Friends of the El Cajon Library, California Hair Design Academy, Rancho San Diego Bead Workshop, Bell Benson – seamstress, and Grossmont College.

The library had the dresses, shawls and accessories in one room, dressing rooms with mirrors in a nearby room, and hair and make-up in a back room.

“We basically have six of us.  We are here to do hair and a little make-up,” said Alyzah Torres with the hair academy. I’m probably going with curls and braids.  Each girl has their own style.”

“I was looking for a prom dress swap, “said Ellen Christy of Ramona, “Because I had a few dresses to maybe swap. Then I heard about The Princess Project and registered online.” Her daughter, Lauren, is a 16-year-old junior and her high school prom is May 19th at Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

“I really like the dress I picked out, “said Lauren Christy, “It’s flowing, a white crescent color.”

Seamstress, Belle Benson, was on hand to handle hems and adjustments to the dresses as needed on her Swedish Viking Husqvarna sewing machine.

“It’s a Viking Husqvarna---just like the chainsaws and motorcycles,” said Benson. “I’m a cosplayer.  I make elaborate costumes. But this, I’ve been doing (volunteering) since it started. “

Tips Benson had for future participants: “Bring your strapless bras.  They come in their sports bras.”  Also, the shoes you will wear during the prom. Know you school rules; some schools require straps.  “I think all girls should have a pretty dress,” she concluded.

Collections of dresses are accepted year-round. A few in East County are Dryclean USA in El Cajon, Friar Tux Shop in La Mesa, and Carlton Classic Cleaners.  Email the organization for tax receipts.

May 19 and May 20th, the Princess Project will have a two-day fundraiser at downtown San Diego’s Horton Plaza Mall, level 1.  They will be selling off all “non-prom dresses” for $5.00 each.  Cocktail, sundresses, wedding, casual, bridesmaid and more comprise part of be the inventory.  For more information on future donations, rules and procedures, visit www.princessprojectsd.org.

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