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North Apollo Church plays fairy godmother to girls who need dresses for the prom

| Sunday, March 13, 2011

North Apollo Church of God could have provided the set for the television show "Say Yes to the Dress" on Saturday.

Several dozen teenagers browsed through more than 330 prom dresses that were donated for the church's annual Cinderella's Closet ministry. To help defer the cost of attending a school prom, the church gives away the dresses to anyone who needs a gown.

Volunteers helped browsers navigate a room bursting with color, thanks to dresses in every size, shape and hue. Seven rooms were converted into dressing rooms and a large floor-to-ceiling hallway mirror allowed the girls to model gowns for their mothers and friends.

"Is this your dress?" asked volunteer consultant Maria Sulava of Leechburg. "Are you saying yes to the dress?"

Keegan Shawfield, a senior at Valley High School in New Kensington, said she was impressed with the program.

"I think it's really nice that they're doing this for girls," she said. "And it's nice they give us a consultant."

Sulava helped teens narrow down their choices, including three sisters who drove an hour from Beaver County and each left the church with a prom dress.

The one thing Sulava couldn't do was find a taker for her favorite gown -- a neon green dress decorated in sequins and tulle. At least a half-dozen girls tried it on, but it didn't quite fit anyone.

Abby Muhl, a 10th-grader at Allegheny-Clarion Valley School District, was torn between Sulava's favorite and a pink strapless "princessy" dress. Although she and her mother, Heather Muhl, liked the green, Abby eventually selected the more traditional pink gown.

Her mother was appreciative. "Right now it would be almost impossible for us to finance a dress," Heather Muhl said. "This is amazing.

"Plus, in a dress shop you feel so much pressure," Muhl added. "The atmosphere here is so much better. It's such a neat idea."

Samantha Bond of Leechburg took over organizing Cinderella's Closet last year and is trying to expand the 8-year-old project. It is an offshoot of the church's Kids' Closet ministry, which offers donated clothing, shoes and other items to local families each month.

Twice as many racks of dresses were available this year, Bond said. The ministry even has shoes, purses, accessories and make-up samples for the girls to choose.

So that girls will have more of an opportunity to find the prefect dress, the ministry has added a second Cinderella's Closet on April 9.

Volunteers spread the word through local high schools and recent graduates to let girls know the dresses are available, as well as to ask for donations.

No donation is necessary to take a dress, Bond said.

Christy Pittman, a church pastor who oversees the Kids' Closet program, said the Cinderella's Closet helps families who otherwise might not be able to afford formal events.

"It's great the girls can shop without spending a ton of money," Pittman said.

"I think the girls are very happy," said Terri McKinley of Kittanning, who brought her daughter, Sarah McKinley, a junior at Lenape Technical School, and two of Sarah's friends. Each found a dress.

"They really have a nice selection," said classmate Caitlin Guzikowski, who was helping Keegan select dresses.

Unfortunately for consultant Sulava, her favorite green dress was too large for Keegan.

"I want someone to have this dress!" said Sulava.


What: Cinderella's Closet prom dress exchange

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 9

Where: North Apollo Church of God, 507 20th St.

Details: 724-478-1631, e-mail or on Facebook

Donations: Donations can be dropped off at the church year round, or arrangements can be made to pick up dresses.

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