Chiffon. Tulle. Silk. Velvet, crape, and organza.
So many choices when it comes to prom dresses — unless, of course, you don’t have the money. Add in the cost of the hair up-do and bling, and the very idea of “prom “ becomes a deflated balloon; too limp and rumpled to even kick around.
Thankfully, there are volunteers like retired Webster teacher Erin Meyers, one of the many “Fairy Godmothers” of the Greater Rochester Area, which worked this year to outfit 400 girls with dresses donated for school proms during an event at the Riverside Convention Center. One group even came in a throng of 30 by bus.
“I brought 10 dresses,” said Meyers. “My friends gave me some, too.”
She also brought her sewing machine, and helped with alterations such as hems, strap repairs, or adding a hook and eye.
The girls had more than 3,000 dresses to choose from in dozens of styles, colors and designs. From size 0 to 30, there were dresses rich in tone and savvy in swagger. Some of the gowns seemed to be floating in the prom rooms during the daylong event. Nearly half of the dresses were brand new. All were current style and free of stains or tears. The students were also provided jewelry, evening bags, a pashmina wrap, a choice of shoes, and goodie bags that included a $10 gift card to a shoe store.
Each volunteer at the event was assigned one girl at a time, and they stayed with that teen until she was finished trying on dresses in the makeshift dressing rooms, chose a dress, selected jewelry, hunted for shoes, and then picked up a pink goodie bag. The volunteers would then move on to help another girl — on and on until everyone found what they needed.
“It was a team effort,’ said Meyers.
Although it was a long and busy day, Meyers said the exhaustion was worth it “to see all of these girls get a chance to be that princess! You could just tell they felt special.”
Fairy Godmothers was established in 2004 and the charity reports that it has outfitted about 7,500 girls.
Meyers mixed in with a large group of volunteers the day before the event to help display dresses and set out jewelry. She was wearing a bright pink “People in Need of Kindness” shirt, which she said is an anti-bullying program used at Webster High School, where she worked as a global studies teacher. She said they held “pink Fridays” at the school, to help teachers and students remember how important kindness is to the culture — and to girls who just want to go to the prom.
Meyers heard about the Fairy Godmothers program through her volunteer mentoring work with the Urban League of Rochester. There, she joins others in working with students who need some extra attention and time. Mentors take students on college visits, to area events, and help them with test prep.
“It meets that need to help people,” said the former teacher.
The mentoring program, she said, provides another way to connect students with guidance.
For retired teachers like Meyers, it also keeps her energy flowing in the direction of students — the people she has surrounded herself with during her years of teaching middle school and high school.
“I like teenagers,” she said, promising that for next year’s Fairy Godmother event, ‘I’m going to recruit a few of my friends.”