Cinderella Project: More free prom dresses than ever to give away Saturday

Jeff Bobo • Feb 8, 2018 at 9:28 AM
KINGSPORT — When Volunteer High School sophomore Jaden-Ann Fraser went dress shopping last month for her upcoming Winter Formal, what she thought was the perfect dress had a most imperfect price tag.

“The one I liked the most was like in the $700 price range, and we just can’t do that,” Fraser told the Times News Wednesday. “Not for just a dress. After that, my hopes were a little bit dashed. It’s just a dress, but I really had a certain thing in mind. Then we heard about the Cinderella Project.”

For the past nine years, the Hawkins County-based Cinderella Project has been providing girls across the region free prom dresses and accessories.

In recent years, the program has been organized by Ann DeWitte, who also happens to be Fraser’s hairdresser.

The Cinderella Project’s first official dress giveaway isn’t until Saturday at the Hope Community Church in Allandale beginning at 10 a.m.

However, Fraser and a few other girls got a head start because they have early formal events on their calendar.

Fraser’s winter formal is Saturday, and she’ll be wearing a dress she picked out at the Cinderella Project a couple of weeks ago.

“As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by these two wonderful women who led us into this room with countless rows of all different size dresses, and they all were in phenomenal condition,” Fraser said. “It was really breathtaking that they had all of those wonderful dresses for free. They have shoes and makeup and anything a girl would need for prom. For some girls, it’s really just too expensive to buy a dress like that. They’re pretty much letting any girl be a princess, regardless of whether they can afford it or not.”

At the Cinderella Project, Fraser’s problem wasn’t finding a dress that she loved. The problem was picking out which one of several she loved to take home.

“They gave me five dresses that fit just perfect, and it was up to me to decide which one,” she said. “I found an even better dress than the one we couldn’t afford at the store. I never thought I’d be able to find one that was as beautiful as the one we didn’t buy. But Ann (DeWitte) knew exactly what I wanted, and one of her helpers pulled out this dress that they said was ‘just made for you.’ ”

The Feb. 10 dress giveaway is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hope Community Church in Allandale, located in the old Winn-Dixie building behind Walgreen’s. Other events are scheduled for those same hours on Feb. 24, March 10, March 24, April 17, April 28, May 12 and May 26.

The Cinderella Project has about 1,200 dresses ranging from size zero to size 26, most of which are new, and all of which were donated by various sources.

The project also has shoes, makeup and other accessories for girls, as well as about 60 suits for boys.

Last year, the Cinderella Project gave away 400 dresses and 45 suits.

Event co-organizer Michelle Nappila said there are more events this year because there are more dresses to give away — and more suits for the guys.

“I believe that every girl should have an opportunity to go to prom and feel like a princess,” Nappila said. “In order to reach everybody that I would like to reach, all the way out to Knoxville, we need more events than just one a month.”

Dresses, suits and accessories are free. The only requirement is for the girl taking the dress to come pick it out in person.

It’s first come, first served. Upon arrival, the girl will get a number, and about eight at a time will be allowed into the dress area “shop” to try on dresses.

Fraser actually got two dresses — one she’ll be wearing at Saturday’s Winter Formal and one for the April 27 NJROTC Military Ball.

Even though the dresses are hers to keep, when formal season is over Fraser plans on returning them to the Cinderella Project so that another girl will find that perfect dress.

“If they can do something that amazing and give away a dress that finely crafted, surely I can do the same thing,” she said.