Cinderella’s Closet Clothes Prom Princesses
Most of us remember our high school proms with fond memories of sparkly dresses, big hair, awkward photos and plenty of bad dance moves. While prom is a rite of passage for many, it’s a tradition with costs that are out of reach for numerous women in the Greater Cincinnati area. Center Pointe Christian Church in West Chester opens Cinderella’s Closet to those women each year.
For the seventh year, Center Pointe will transform its worship space into a beautiful dress boutique for one weekend in March. 150 high school girls, who wouldn’t normally manage to pay for prom, spend a few hours with a personal shopper preparing for the prom of their dreams.
The young women are “Princesses” for the evening. Their personal shoppers? “Fairy Godmothers.” Each Princess tries on formal dresses, shoes, jewelry and handbags until she finds the combination that’s just right for her. The mission of Cinderella’s Closet is to make each young woman feel beautiful and loved.
“The Princesses walk in and they’re one-on-one with their Fairy Godmother, who spends the next few hours pouring worth and value into them. [The Fairy Godmother] carries everything for them, and helps the Princess try on dress after dress until she feels comfortable and beautiful,” says Sara Mosteller, Director of Cinderella’s Closet at Center Pointe.
Mosteller, along with colleagues Amy Hettinger and Kelly Wilson, started Cinderella’s Closet at Center Pointe in 2009, during a time when the church’s leaders were looking for more outreach opportunities. Its members immediately rallied behind the initiative and have embraced it ever since.
Center Pointe serves as the Southwest Ohio branch of the Cinderella’s Closet organization, which began in 2006 in Lakeside Park, Kentucky, and now has programs in 10 states. The young women who attend the event at Center Pointe live within a 20-mile radius of West Chester. Each girl is referred into the program by a school guidance counselor, teacher, pastor or social worker. Each girl who walks through the door is immediately greeted by a team of open-hearted volunteers who want to make sure she knows she is beautiful.
“The girls we serve primarily need financial assistance, but many also need emotional support,” Mosteller explains. “High school girls will tell you–there is so much that the world says to you: ‘I’m not good enough, smart enough or pretty enough.’ We get two hours with them to connect and make an impact.”
With two hours dedicated solely to making them feel special, the experience can be overwhelming for some of the girls, but Hettinger explains that the volunteers often make a bigger impact than they realize.
“One year, I had a girl who was really hesitant and shy. I wasn’t sure if she was having fun or enjoying herself,” Hettinger says. “But the next year she asked for me, specifically, to be her Fairy Godmother. She still had the note I had written to her [the year before], and a photo of us on her cell phone. I remember that every year, whenever there’s a girl who’s uncomfortable with the praise.”
Before the girls can even enter Cinderella’s Closet, it takes months of preparation at Center Pointe to pull off the event. Mosteller says they have hundreds of dresses donated each year, and it takes every one of them to make the event a success. Volunteers begin work Thursday evening to set up, with Friday and Saturday serving as the shopping days for Princesses. After the event ends on Saturday evening, another team of volunteers breaks down the boutique and reorganizes the area for Sunday’s service.
For Mosteller, Hettinger and Wilson, the time and energy that goes into making Cinderella’s Closet is always worth it.
“So many girls come in and say no one has told them they’re beautiful before,” Mosteller says. “It’s really not about the dress. The dress is how we get them in the door, but it’s more about that experience with each Princess.”