2016-02-17 / Voice at the Shore

Project Prom collecting dresses for needy girls through March 10

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore correspondent


JCC’s Marg Mancuso s hows off the racks of prom dresses collected for girls in need. Collections will be taken there and at Esthetica Salon and Kensington Furniture in Northfield until March 10. JCC’s Marg Mancuso s hows off the racks of prom dresses collected for girls in need. Collections will be taken there and at Esthetica Salon and Kensington Furniture in Northfield until March 10. Those who’ve visited the Margate JCC recently are bound to have noticed an unusual sight: Mannequins dressed in beautiful, sparkly cocktail dresses and evening gowns, along several racks of dresses and boxes of fancy high-heeled shoes, adorning a corner of the lobby.

“People ask us if the dresses are for sale,” laughed Marg Mancuso, JCC’s chief operating officer.

Although some of the dresses still have tags on them, they are not for sale; rather, the dresses are being collected for Project Prom, a local initiative that collects prom dresses and accessories for high school girls who might otherwise not be able to afford them. Between now and March 10, Project Prom is collecting clean, gently used dresses, shoes, handbags and other accessories. Dresses and other prom items can either be dropped off at the Margate JCC or Esthetica Salon and Spa, at 1205 Tilton Road in Northfield, or Kensington Furniture, at 200 Tilton Road in Northfield.

Girls from Atlantic County in need of dresses will be able to “shop” for a free dress and other items on March 12th and 13th at Kensington Furniture. “Any high school girl in Atlantic County with a school ID can come in for a free dress,” said Rene Kane, who chairs Project Prom. Mancuso and about 25 other local women, many of whom are Jewish, also serve on the Project Prom committee.

In addition to dresses and accessories, the committee is also looking for other kinds of contributions that will make prom night extra-special. This includes people who can help with makeup, hair and manicures, dry cleaning, and limo rides. “Anything to help these girls have a magical night,” said Kane.

Kane, an active member of Congregation Beth Judah, originally ran Project Prom at the synagogue from 2005 through 2011. A lack of space for storing the dresses put an end to the project there. She started it up again this year because she saw it was needed; last year, someone she knew had posted an urgent request on Facebook for prom dresses for several JFS clients.

This time around, Kane reached out to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City, which is listed on Project Prom flyers as the beneficiary of the dress collection. “We decided to do it with the Boys and Girls Club because it seemed like the right avenue for getting the most girls to participate,” said Kane, adding that the committee also hopes this project will lead to future projects to help to empower these girls.

Kane also sought out partners who had ample space for dresses and who were well positioned to reach out to people with dresses and accessories to donate.

The JCC was an ideal fit. Not only did it have plenty of space, it also offered Project Prom huge visibility. The dress collection currently sits in a very visible corner of the lobby—right outside the entrance to the JCC’s bustling fitness center, and just across from the information desk. “Everyone sees the racks there. We get a lot of traffic. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t hear people talk about it.”

Project Prom is also a good fit for the JCC because of the center’s ongoing relationship with the Boys and Girls Club. “I was there two years ago helping with their camp and made a lot of connections with people there,” said Mancuso, who is thrilled that both she and the JCC can make another positive contribution to Boys and Girls Club and the Atlantic City youth that they serve.

Mancuso said that she and her staff can also arrange to pick up dresses and other donations if people are unable to bring them to the center. Anyone wishing to arrange for a pickup can call Mancuso at (609) 822-1167, extension 142.

For more information on business sponsorships, call Kane at (609) 703-8592. To learn more about Project Prom, go to ProjectPromAC.com or visit the Project Prom Facebook page. .

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