'Sister-to-Sister Prom Shop' creates Cinderella stories

New and gently used gowns and accessories, for free

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  • Kristen Szolusha and Ashley Zuidema from Selective Insurance volunteered their time to help put together the Prom Shop Photos by Laurie Gordon

  • Judy Dunn of Sparta works on the dress racks

  • The shop routinely distributes over 200 dresses each year

By Laurie Gordon

— It has been called the oldest story in the world, and apparently it — the tale of Cinderella — is still current.

Just as Cinderella needed a Fairy Godmother to get her dressed for the ball, there are a lot of girls out there who need some help getting a prom dress. Project Self-Sufficiency's Prom Shop is their Fairy Godmother. Cinderella's Fairy Godmother waived a wand, and in the case of Project Self-Sufficiency, they stroked a keyboard The posting on social media was the “magic” that led to hundreds of dresses being donated.

Set up in a boutique style in Project Self-Sufficiency's Building 3, between now and April 15, girls are invited to come and select a dress for the promm free of charge.

The eleventh annual “Sister-to-Sister Prom Shop” will be open March 28th, 29th, April 4th, 5th, 10th, 11th, 12th , 3:00—7:00 p.m.; April 6th and 13th, 3:00—5:00 p.m.; and April 7th and 14th, 9:00—11:00 a.m. In addition to new and gently used dresses of all lengths and sizes, the Prom Shop will feature accessories like shoes, wraps, hand bags, and jewelry so that patrons can create the perfect ensemble. The “Sister-to-Sister Prom Shop" will offer gowns and accessories to any teen girl in need; no registration is required. Project Self-Sufficiency is located at 127 Mill Street in Newton.

Jay and Judy Dunn, of Sparta, have been volunteers with Project Self-Sufficiency for over 20 years. They've helped some with the Prom Shop in the past, but this year, with their combined backgrounds in interior design and retail, the Dunns are at the helm. They oversaw the set up and added some new nuances to this year's Shop.

“This is such a great idea and helps so many girls who otherwise would not be able to get a prom dress,” Judy Dunn said.

Jay Dunn added, “We so enjoy volunteering and helping out at Project Self-Sufficiency. It truly gives us more pleasure than we give.”

In the past, the Prom Shop has routinely distributed more than 200 dresses to teen girls each year, making it the largest distributor of gently used formal wear in northwestern New Jersey. The Dunns said that there are a few hundred more than that this year, many donated with tags still on.

“Every dress is either new or has been dry-cleaned,” Judy Dunn said.

“We are anticipating that the need will continue to be great for many young women in our area,” said Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency. “Attending the prom is a once in a lifetime event, and we are thankful that our community continues to help these young women to have a memorable evening by donating formal wear to the Sister-to-Sister Prom Shop year after year.”

The Prom Shop enables girls to shop in a classy, boutique-like setting, try on dresses, shoes and wraps and model them for their moms or friends.

“It's so amazing to watch,” Judy Dunn said. “They try on a dress and suddenly, the way they carry themselves changes and then they look in the mirror and realize they look like a princess.”

Finding Prince Charming is, however, up to them.

Dresses and other types of formal wear are currently being accepted for display. The “Sister-to-Sister” Prom Shop is made possible by the Sussex County Family Success Center at Project Self-Sufficiency. For information about donating dresses to the Sister-to-Sister Prom Shop or to find out more about any of the programs at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org.

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