Whirling and twirling

Cinderella Project brings girls and dresses together

Amelia Allison, 9, twirls across the Tri-State Cinderella Project Fashion Show stage. (Photo by Julie Riedel)

WELLSVILLE — Whirling and twirling, strutting and posing to show off dresses for all formal occasions. On Feb. 7, the Tri-State Cinderella Project held a fashion show at the Center on Ninth Street.

“The Tri-State Cinderella project is a place where girls can bring in their dresses to sell, people can donate dresses and we find good homes for them with girls who would otherwise not be able to afford dresses,” said Jennifer Harris.

The show gave attendees the chance to see some of the dresses in the project’s collection. The Cinderella Project is organized and run by Jackie Harris, Tori Jackson, Tabitha Coil and Jennifer Harris.

The project was dreamed up during a conversation between Jennifer Harris and Jackson. Harris and Jackson both have teenage children and they were complaining about the costs of school dances. The organization can’t change the cost of dance tickets but they offer a space to shop for second hand dresses.

“It’s a safe environment too. You see the dresses on Facebook and you worry whether people really want to go into somebody’s house and try on dresses,” said Jackson.

The Tri-State Cinderella Project is based out of the EVE Music Studio in Wellsville. The space was selected because Harris owns the music studio and it makes sense for the time being, but if they can find another location with more space the team would be thrilled.

They collected a $3 cover fee at the fashion show, to put towards the organization’s non-profits application, which costs around $800. They want to become a registered non-profit to expand the organization’s reach and ability to do partnerships. They have had companies like JJ Jones in Weirton have donated dresses, which they are thankful for but they want to do more for their community and that requires being a licensed non-profit.

“It’s kind and amazing that she wanted to do this to help the girls,” said Rayette Eltringham.

Eltringham, modeled a yellow mother of the brides dress and she helped to get the others ready for the show by doing their hair.

There were 12 ladies showing off dresses, with ages ranging from 7 to over 18. It even included a few mother daughter duos. Each model showed between 4 and 14 looks, and while they strutted across the stage Harris read a description of the dress.

Gemma Messenger, 9, was one of the models. She takes singing lessons at EVE Music Studio and was asked to participate in the show. Mom, Vanessa Messenger said, “She loves playing dress up and is the diva of the studio.”

Gemma has bought a number of dresses from the project and planned on leaving with the purple dress she modeled in the show. Messenger said, Gemma always has a new dress to wear when she sings in church.

“The Cinderella Project is a wonderful thing going on in my hometown. I have a daughter, I bought her first dress last year from Henry’s in Minerva, and I paid 600 dollars for her dress,” said Coil. “Some girls in our surrounding areas don’t have transportation or that kind of money. And there are girls that can’t go to prom, homecoming or any dance because they can’t afford a dress. Well if they stop here, we can help them get a dress they love and then they won’t have to miss something special like that. So it is wonderful that I can now shop here and get my daughter a dress she loves and pay less than two Hundred dollars. I grew up in this town and I want to see it come back to life.’

The project has prom and homecoming dresses, flower girl and mother of the bride dresses, there’s even the occasional wedding dress. The Cinderella Project has over 700 dresses including sizes from triple zero to 26, and covers all lengths and styles. Jennifer said they would like to expand into men’s formalwear, but right now they only have the space for dresses and a few accessories.

“For the fun of it, and what they’ve done is pretty nice, to show off the dresses,” said model Cheyanna Board, 16. Cheyanna had 12 dresses picked out for the show, including a two piece pink ensemble with pockets.

The project was meant to be a one weekend sale in September, but it received such a positive response they’ve kept it going. Dresses are available for purchase during EVE Music Studio hours or by appointment.

The team has acquired their collection by donations, and girls selling dresses. All the dresses do have a price tag, because they noticed girls would breeze past the donated dresses on the free rack. They adjusted their sales strategy and sprinkled donated dresses throughout the racks, and any profit made by a donated dress goes into a fund designated to help girls with less money buy their dream dress. They use a tag and logging system to ensure no dress gets misplaced and the profits made by a dress goes to the seller. The Cinderella Project does not take a consignment fee and has dresses available between $25 and $250.

“I think it’ll probably be a permanent idea as long as it keeps working for us,” said Harris. “We’re all volunteers. We volunteer our time, volunteer our own money, a lot of our money, but we just want to see the girls, you know, have their Cinderella moments and go to the dances.”

They are planning an adult prom and Chinese auction for March 14 as another fundraiser. The tickets for the prom cover the cost of food and they plan to use the auction proceeds for their non-profit license and to buy more dresses. Questions about the adult prom, or the project itself can be directed to Tabitha Coil and Jennifer Harris at (330) 532-0080.



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