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The gift of glamor

Prom dresses get a second turn on the dance floor through a program that delivers previously worn dresses to girls who need them.

By ANDREW DELONG
Published May 2, 2005


Music fills the air as fashion-conscious teenagers move onto the dance floor for the most important dance of the year, prom.

Dresses of varying lengths and designs take center stage. From casual to chic, from glamorous to romantic, these dresses are sure to appeal.

But what happens to these ballroom beauties after the dance? Most girls, like Monique Grespan, 17, a 12th-grader at East Lake High, decide to hang on to their dresses. "Mine just sits in my closet," she said.

Other girls sell their dresses at local consignment shops. Some put their dresses on eBay or try to sell them through the classified ads in newspapers. Some schools even host dress swaps.

Katie Marshall, 18, decided to donate her dress. "My mom gave mine to charity to help someone in need," said Marshall, also a 12th-grader at East Lake High. "Everybody should be able to go their senior prom, whether they can afford it or not."

Those sentiments were shared by a 16-year-old South Florida cheerleader named Rebecca Kirtman. In the spring of her freshman year, Becca collected and distributed more than 250 prom dresses that helped many girls proudly attend their prom.

Becca was killed in a car accident in August 2003, and her family started a nonprofit organization, Becca's Closet, to continue her mission to help others. With chapters all over the country, Becca's Closet acts as a dress bank where prom dresses are collected and distributed to any girl in need. Locally, Becca's Closet is sponsored by the University of South Florida and is located at the Hillel Jewish Center in Tampa.

Marisa Kahn, the Hillel's vice president Tzedek (community service), said the concept of Becca's Closet is to help "young girls make dreams come true." Kahn, 23, a junior at USF and the student contact for Becca's Closet, is dedicated to helping those in need.

"It is such a worthy endeavor to be part of this project. Helping provide dresses to these less fortunate girls is a privilege and an honor," Kahn said. "It really makes me feel wonderful knowing I am contributing to making their dreams come true. Hopefully, the girl thinks of it like the movie Pay it Forward and gives back one day to someone less fortunate than she.

"That is the real reward," she added, "first, to receive and then to give back."

Nicky Spivak, the center's executive director, gives Kahn credit for going out to get the dresses from a variety of sources and informing schools that the dresses are available. "Marisa has gone to different department stores and they've donated dresses. She goes out to local high schools and advises them that we have dresses for students in need," he said.

"They come when we are here and they can try on a dress and select one without any questions asked. We don't ask for contact information or anything. It's all done (anonymously)."

Andrew DeLong, 17, is in 11th grade at East Lake High School.

GET INVOLVED

If you or someone you know is interested in donating or receiving a prom or special occasion dress, e-mail usfhillel@tampadsl.net or call 813 899-2788. The Becca's Closet Web site is www.beccascloset.org

[Last modified April 29, 2005, 11:45:04]


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