Story By Dorothy Markulis
They are a small band of women, but mighty, striving to give every young girl a royal experience, at no charge to the recipients.
For the 16th year, Altrusa International of Akron is sponsoring its annual Princess Night Project – Free Prom Dress and Accessory Giveaway – March 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Family of Faith United Methodist Church, 800 W. Market St., Akron.
There are no need qualifications for the prom dress giveaway and no recommendations from schools or social agencies are needed.
“We just don’t want the girls to miss the prom. It’s a very important event in their lives,” said Linda Rittenour, who with Alice Luse has co-chaired the event for the past several years.
Altrusa doesn’t stop with supplying a prom dress, they provide everything to go with that dress to make the evening very special – shoes, purses, shawls and jewelry.
“It’s quite a production,” Rittenour said, “but just knowing how we help the girls makes it all worthwhile.”
According to Rittenour, the local chapter of Altrusa started the princess project after member Linda Penson visited a local dry cleaners and saw several formals hanging on the racks. The owner said many people brought their prom dresses for dry cleaning after a prom, but never came back to pick them up. And an idea for reusing prom dresses for girls who needed them was born.
“It’s a big endeavor,” Rittenour admitted.
She said the local Altrusa chapter is small, about 25 active members, but the community support for the project has been amazing.
“Someone contributes a storage space for our dresses, Two Men in a Truck donate its services to load and unload the items and the church has been so kind to us. The church is perfect for our distribution and it is on a bus line,” Rittenour commented.
The Princess Night Project itself is a three-day production, setting up the church hall with racks of dresses, tables with shoes, tables with purses, tables with shawls and tables with jewelry.
“We want to make the experience just like any dress shop,” Luse said. “Our girls want what every girl wants.”
Luse said she has been co-chairing the event ever since she joined Altrusa.
“Altrusa is an amazing group of women. They do so much, so many worthwhile projects,” Luse explained.
Luse said the event makes her very happy.
“It’s not just the girls, it’s the moms. They are so grateful,” Luse said.
“Just the look on the girls’ faces makes it worthwhile. I can remember one mother who cried. She was so grateful. She was a single parent who couldn’t afford for her daughter to go to the prom,” Rittenour said.
“That happens in all economic areas. One day a dad has a job, then the next day he has no job,” Rittenour explained.
Each girl is assigned a personal shopper to assist her in selecting the right dress with all the matching accessories. Several seamstresses will be on hand to alter dresses to fit even though all sizes are available.
Volunteers are always welcomed, whether as a personal shopper, seamstress, or helping to set up the church. Donations are also needed – dresses, accessories and especially dress shoes. Monetary contributions are also welcomed. All donations are tax deductible.
“Not everyone has a dress to donate but most of us have a pair of dressy shoes in their closet that they could donate,” Rittenour said.
There are several locations accepting donations. For those locations you are asked to call Luse at 330-869-5161 or 330-606-5164 or Rittenour at 330-733-1353.
Contributions also may be dropped off at the church at 800 East Market St. on March 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. prior to the March 19 event.
According to Luse, more than 400 girls have been treated as a princess in the past three years.
Altrusa does not keep records of the girls served but Luse said through the years they have received many thank you notes.
“Every year we get beautiful thank you notes,” she said.
For more information:
Call For more information, call Linda Rittenour 330-733-1353 or Alice Luse at 330-869-5161. Email Alice Luse at: firstname.lastname@example.org