ALEM - With prom season just around the corner, the basement of the Salem Schools administration building now resembles a dress boutique with gowns of every size, color and style awaiting their own Cinderella.
The donated dresses are part of Project Prom, a joint effort of the Salem and West Branch school districts to provide a way for students in need to enjoy the prom experience and pick out a free dress from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Cleveland Street location.
"It's so worth doing just for that one child we're able to help," Salem Junior High Guidance Counselor Tracy Bosheff said.
Bosheff and her counterpart, West Branch High School guidance counselor Jill DeRamo, have been involved in Project Prom since it began seven years ago after Salem High School student now graduate Sarah Brobeck saw something similar somewhere else.
People from Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties have donated dresses and Bosheff said some come with the tags still on them showing purchase prices of several hundred dollars.
"They want to make someone else happy and make their dreams come true," she said.
She recalled one mother who came with her daughter to help her pick out a dress who said she wouldn't have been able to go to prom if it wasn't for Project Prom.
"We have a lot of people who have helped us out," Bosheff said.
Keith Davis, of Hubbard, who operates Create-It-Color, has been involved since day one donating a brand new pair of shoes to each girl who wants them and dying them to match the color of the dress the girl selects. They also have the option of getting a matching purse. He usually gives out about 20 pairs of shoes each year.
Casal's Institute in Austintown also participates, offering to do makeup, manicures, pedicures and hair updos for any girl who picks out a dress.
Bosheff estimated they give away 60 to 80 dresses each year out of a stock of 700 to 800 dresses. She even gets calls when it's time for homecomings and have given away a few dresses then. Some dresses are donated to the school theatre departments of Salem and West Branch high schools and the Salem Community Theatre.
Columbiana County Educational Service Center high school students with special needs whose classroom is housed at Salem High School spent Thursday sorting the dresses by color, style and size and placing them on racks. They also did some cleaning to assist their fellow high school students.
"We wanted to help them out. They do so much for us," ESC teacher Debbie Seevers said.
Her class was there, along with the class of teacher Joan Schomer and her classroom assistant Cathy Hoover. The students with special needs come from all over the county.
Bosheff said individual dressing rooms will be formed on the stage, with plenty of mirrors available. Dresses range in size from 0 up to 20, in a wide range of colors from bright green to deep purple.
She's expecting a line when they open the doors and then a scene similar to what may be seen on reality TV when future brides show up for a dress sale, except in this case, there's no cost.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org