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Rockaway teens play dress up in prom gown giveaway

A Project Window volunteer arranges jewelry before the lucky Far Rockaway girls come to take their pick. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

Angela Hines believes all young women should feel like a princess on prom night and she is doing her part to make that come true.

The Far Rockaway resident organized and hosted Queens of Far Rockaway at the Action Center, at 57-10 Beach Channel Drive, last week, an event allowing victims of Superstorm Sandy to walk away with a free prom dress, shoes and accessories, including purses, jewelry and makeup tips.

The founder and director of Project Window, a nonprofit that provides girls in low-income housing projects with opportunities to reach their full potential, Hines said many families are still displaced following the storm.

And some parents might not be able to pay for prom necessities while also shelling out money for storm repair.

“Parents are spending a lot of time working on rebuilding, but what about the kids?” Hines asked. “We want to make sure all girls feel special on prom night.”

Dozens of young women from throughout the Rockaways came to the event looking for that special dress. Tanya Saunders, of Far Rockaway, emerged from behind her changing screen with a flowing blue dress, drawing applause from her friends and onlookers.

“This is the one,” Saunders said as she headed over to the shoe table to find a perfectly matching pair of heels. “It’s beautiful.”

Hines said Project Window received hundreds of dress donations from stores, including Manhattan’s Kleinfeld Bridal and KiKi D’s in New Jersey.

Arielle Ortiz, a volunteer with Project Window, said Hurricane Sandy underscored the need for an event like this in Far Rockaway. She said young people in the area need something positive and uplifting to focus on as the adults work on getting everyday life back to normal.

“It’s OK for them to be glamorous today,” she said. “This is all about them. And we are here to help them find the perfect dress for the perfect night.”

Carlesha Murray, also from Far Rockaway, lit up when she found her dress and shyly smiled from ear to ear. The look on her face was a sight that Harris said is exactly why she decided to undertake this dress giveaway.

It is part of Hines’ broader mission with Project Window, which was her response to a growing number of young people in Far Rockaway failing school, joining gangs and abusing drugs and alcohol. The organization forms partnerships with schools, community centers and parents in Far Rockaway, which refer girls to the program.

Hines said the program — and the prom dress giveaway — helps girls believe there is more to life than what they see through their windows.

“To see them smile and to see them feeling beautiful, which they are, it is why I’m here right now,” said Harris, who works as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society. “Every girl deserves to have a storybook prom experience.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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