Teen girls get dream dresses at the Prom Dress Giveaway event in El Cajon

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At the El Cajon Library last weekend, teenage girls were walking away not with an armload of books, but with their very own prom dresses. The event, organized by Youth Services Librarian Miko Osada, was the Prom Dress Giveaway.

Osada said that the first year she held the event at the library, they did not have enough dress donations. This year and last, however, Princess Project has partnered with the library and is now the main sponsor for the dress giveaway. The organization is the major donor of dresses of all sizes and colors.

At the El Cajon Library last weekend, teenage girls were walking away not with an armload of books, but with their very own prom dresses. The event, organized by Youth Services Librarian Miko Osada, was the Prom Dress Giveaway.

Osada said that the first year she held the event at the library, they did not have enough dress donations. This year and last, however, Princess Project has partnered with the library and is now the main sponsor for the dress giveaway. The organization is the major donor of dresses of all sizes and colors.

Although Osada did not even attend her own prom back in Michigan, she understands the importance of the prom for girls. “It marks the end of an era for them and entering into adult life, and it’s a commemoration of their school life,” Osada said.

But many girls’ parents cannot even afford the prom ticket, which can run as high as $80, much less the price of renting a limo and getting the dress.

“This way, we help to offset the expense of the prom,” Osada said.

The girls even chose a free accessory, such as earrings or a necklace, to go with the dress. The jewelry-making group at Rancho San Diego Library donated many of the pieces.

Local seamstress Belle Benson was on hand to make alterations on the spot for the girls when they chose their dresses.

“The fashion industry has strange ideas sometimes of the sizes that people should be, especially for young girls. So I like to come here and make sure their dream dress fits them. 

“I always tell the girls they’re beautiful and perfect the way they are,” Benson said.

Nancy Manson, 18, a Valhalla High School senior, will be going to her prom on May 20. She was not only looking for her own dress, she was a volunteer at the event.

“It’s just so much fun helping the girls out, helping them choose from the colors and styles. Of course, I love looking at all the dresses, too,” said Manson.

Manson helped her best friend Rita Hanan choose a piece of jewelry. “I like these,” Hanan said, holding up a pair of pearl and gold earrings.

Several other volunteers were on hand at the Giveaway, including some cosmetologists from the California Hair Design Academy in La Mesa. 

Tanya Gentry watched while her daughter Chalise was getting a makeover by Jenny Lovano.

“This event is just awesome. Her cheeks have been hurting from smiling so much,” Gentry said, laughing with her daughter.

“I keep going back to look at my dress, I’m so excited. It even has its own little shrug to go with it,” Tanya said, picking up an elegant turquoise spaghetti-strap dress with sequined and beaded flowers below the bodice. “

Lovano applied bronze, blush, mascara and a perfect shade of eye shadow on Gentry’s face.   

“Now I know how I want to make up my face on the night of the prom,” said Gentry. 

Lovano was thrilled that Gentry was pleased with the results. “I like doing this, coming here to volunteer, because I want to make the girls look nice for their special night,” Lovano said.

For more information about Princess Project, go to www.princessproject.org. To find out more about the many future activities planned for teens at the El Cajon Library, call Miko Osada at 619-588-3718.

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