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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
TAMPA -- As the first pair in a line of 300, Omega Mothersill and Angelice Smith of Lakeland had a strategy.
"Buy now, pick out later." Mothersill said.
Good plan. A half-hour and $625 later, they walked away with two wedding gowns from Thursday's pre-dawn sale at the Goodwill store, 4102 W Hillsborough Avenue.
"That's a steal," she added.
Made possible by a donation from a St. Petersburg bridal salon, the two-day sale is designed to offset budget cuts to programs for persons with disabilities, said Goodwill Industries-Suncoast spokeswoman Michael Ann Harvey.
If all the dresses are sold - and judging by the ferocity of which the racks were rummaged, they will be - Harvey expects the sale to net more than $30,000.
"This happy promotion will offset some of those losses," Harvey said.
But none of that really seemed to matter to those lined up around the store.
"A designer dress for less than nothing?" said Beth Bartlett, 37. "I'm all over that."
Melissa Decker, 19, of Spring Hill, started her maid-of-honor duties for her sister Kelly's April 2008 nuptials early. Way early.
"Wake up at 4 a.m. and head down to Tampa," she said, half-kidding.
But their punctuality paid off, too. They walked out of the store with three wedding dresses. The cost? $975.
One couple, Yosmel, 21, and Yamisel Cruz, 20, can now afford the ceremony they couldn't pay for last October. Yamisel didn't find a wedding dress, but she did find a gown for the reception. And she was thumbing through sparkling tiaras.
Not everyone was as lucky. As the racks emptied inside, the mood outside grew tense.
"I should have been here sooner," said Janis Johnson, 62, a widowed retiree from Tampa standing about halfway back in the line. She's looking to marry her "new gentleman" sometime soon. "I'm hopeful."
The sale continues Friday in St. Petersburg at the Goodwill store in St. Petersburg, 10596 Gandy Blvd. Word to the wise: Get there before doors open at 6 a.m.