Program helps put students in their proms

Successful project needs storage facility for donated clothing

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Daniel Marsula, Post-Gazette
Limos, tickets, meals and attire -- going to the prom gets costlier every year. Here's how to do it on a budget, but with style.
By Ann Belser
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the last four years, 500 high school students who might have had to miss the prom have been able to go, thanks to an all-volunteer effort by Allegheny County's Department of Human Services.

   
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Now Dana Sheehan, who started Project Prom with a co-worker, is afraid this may be the last year that students who receive the department's services will also have a chance to be fitted in free prom attire.

Project Prom needs a home to store the donated clothing from one year to the next, and a place to host the Project Prom Shop.

The problem with Project Prom, is, in part a problem of success. The first year, it was set up in a conference room. But now, it has 20 racks of dresses and tuxedos, mostly dresses, and tables of shoes and jewelry, that are available to young people who would not otherwise be able to afford to go on their special night out.

Currently the program uses space that was once a day care center in the Department of Human Services building on Smithfield Street, Downtown. But the space is going to be renovated and turned into offices for human services workers. That has left Project Prom in need of a new home.

Mrs. Sheehan said she is looking for either a nonprofit organization or a retail partner to, at the very least, provide the space for the program in which the students receive free prom attire.

"I would really hate to see it end. They deserve one night when they don't have to worry about their families or their problems," she said.

The program serves students who are in the free lunch program, whose families qualify for help with their utility bills, who have substance abuse problems, who receive services from Children, Youth and Families or have developmental disabilities or mental health issues.

Mrs. Sheehan said it essentially is for anyone who receives any sort of help from the Department of Human Services.

"The only office that doesn't benefit is the Area Agency on Aging, because they're not in high school," she said.

This spring, from 3 to 5 p.m. on April 3-5, the Project Prom Shop will be open in the DHS building at 1 Smithfield St., Downtown, for eligible students.

Then, on April 6, the shop will be open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. to sell items from $1 to $25. The proceeds from the sale of the items are used to pay for gift certificates that are given to young men for tuxedo rentals.

Mrs. Sheehan said despite the possibility that this may have to be the last year, the store will be open this spring and is still taking donations for the program.

For more information on donating clothing call 412-350-3428, or go to the Web site at: www.county.allegheny.pa.us/dhs/projectprom.


Ann Belser can be reached at abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.


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