Collection begins for prom dresses for girls who need them

By Sara Matthis and Kristen Livengood

A group of dedicated women in the Keys make sure every girl who needs a dress to wear to the dance, has one.

In Marathon, visits to the “Success Closet” ramp up as prom season approaches. Hanging on a rack in Tina Belotti’s Marathon High School classroom, about 40 dresses are carefully cleaned and pressed, waiting to be chosen. They are long, short, big, small, simple and elaborate. All of them, however, are donated for the cause. More are needed.

“For prom, we need the public to donate dressy shoes and smaller size dresses. For the boys, we need young men’s jackets, vests and bowties,” said volunteer Sherrie Taylor.

Taylor spends about 15 to 20 hours a week organizing the closet at Marathon High School. She sorts ALL the donations — shorts, uniform polos, dresses, shoes and bags — by size and style and then manages to make them fit in the an 8 by 8 foot closet stacked floor to ceiling. The Success Closet has quarterly week-long events, and also special events, like prom shopping.

“During our regular week long events, we serve about 200 students at Marathon High School,” Taylor said.

The idea for the closet, two years old, grew out of the need to provide middle school students with garments that meet uniform code. The manpower is provided by student members of the Keys to Be the Change.

Key West High School and Coral Shores High School have similar clothing programs.

At Key West High School, teacher Tami Dannacker started “The Prom Closet” seven years ago with the help of Kids Come First. The closet not only has a variety of dresses, but also shoes, purses, bags, makeup and some male items, too.

“We have successfully assisted hundreds of students throughout the years,” she said saying it’s not just open around prom time, but all year. “Anyone can come look. I have students come to me for job interviews, sweet 16s, and weddings. If they need something, anything, we do our best to help them.”

Items can be kept by the students, or returned for someone else to use in the future. Starting on May 2, students will be able to come to her room during lunch to look, try on, or take dresses.

At Coral Shores High School, teacher Alena McNew’s Future Business Leaders of America club and Spanish club took on the task to set up a prom closet in her classroom.

Prom is May 14 at Coral Shores and Marathon, and June 6 at Key West.

Donations needed:

Organizers are always looking for more gently worn dresses (and blazers! And high heels!) to expand the offerings for Keys students. Another way for the public to contribute is by sponsoring a student’s accessories — new shoes, hair and nail appointments — for the prom. To donate, please contact Lori Denny or Tina Belotti at Marathon High School; Tami Dannacker at Key West High School; Alena McNew at Coral Shores High School; or, all Keys Centennial Bank’s which collects dresses for Kids Come First. The attire is moved to coordinate with each of the Keys school’s proms.

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