By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News
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The nonprofit operating at Mountain View Commons at 1925 Blaine St. is seeking donated prom dresses for a new program, Cinderella’s Closet.
Through the “closet,” Working Image volunteers would dress young women who can’t afford a prom dress from head to toe, jewelry to shoes.
“Every girl should have the chance to feel beautiful and attend their school prom,” said Lisa Hickman, president of Working Image.
The high school girls will have to get their own ride, though; Working Image magic doesn’t extend to pumpkins.
And what magic there is will come largely from donors.
“I don’t know how many girls we would be able to outfit, but even if we do just a handful, it will be a handful who wouldn’t have been able to go,” Hickman said.
Working Image is putting out the call for dresses now, during prom season, in the hope that people will pass on their fancy dresses for someone else to wear next year.
The place already has a head start on its selection.
“We had three dresses come in that are darling,” Hickman said.
“We tried to get them to somebody in need this year, but it didn’t work out.”
The acquisition did give Hickman an idea.
“Those dresses started me thinking about starting a program for the 2015 school year,” she said.
“Right now, there isn’t any program in place for girls who would like to go to prom and can’t afford it.”
“I did a little bit of research . . . I was surprised to find out that the average prom costs $1,100,” she said, adding that in addition to the dress, this price tag includes hairstyling, shoes, jewelry and a limo ride.
Formal wear is a new area for the nonprofit.
When Working Image began in 1999, it provided free clothing to women who needed outfits for job interviews or work.
Since then, its mission has expanded to offer wardrobes to all women in need, regardless of their circumstances.
Referrals come from about 30 social service agencies, everyone from the Dove House domestic violence shelter to Olympic Community Action Programs to Habitat for Humanity.
The volunteers have dressed women undergoing cancer treatments, tribal women, women in military families.
“I didn’t know that almost 50 percent of our military families are on some sort of government assistance,” Hickman said.
“We’ve branched out quite a bit.
“We’re not just dressing women for work; we’re dressing women for life.”
Working Image also takes those who are self-referred.
“Nobody has to prove financial need,” Hickman said.
Working Image operated under the umbrella of another organization, such as Skookum and OlyCAP, until three years ago, when it acquired nonprofit status on its own.
It has only one part-time paid position — that of the office manager, Liz Berman.
Hickman, who became president of Working Image a little over a year ago after working with the group for 13 years, is a volunteer.
Men are referred to the OlyCAP thrift store, and donations of men’s clothing are sent there, too.
“We have a really good partnership with them,” Hickman said.
Working Image serves clients in Jefferson, Clallam and Kitsap counties.
During the first year of Cinderella’s Closet, however, the nonprofit will take referrals only from East Jefferson high schools.
“This first year, we’re only dealing with girls in need in Port Townsend and Chimacum,” Hickman said.
“We’re hoping it will take off” and clients from neighboring counties can be helped, “but this year, we’ll see how we do with just our local high schools.”
Donations, however, are welcome from other counties.
“We would like to have prom dresses donated from anywhere,” Hickman said.
“We’ll start locally and see how many we get, how many we have to buy.
“Later, perhaps we could do a prom dress exchange,” she added,
That would calm the anxiety of one’s special dress being recognized as originally belonging to someone else’s sister.
“We could take the prom dresses from Port Townsend to Poulsbo, for example, and take Poulsbo dresses to Port Townsend,” Hickman said.
But the point of the program, no matter how small or large it becomes, is “to make sure that girls who need it get the help,” she said.
To donate to Working Image or for more information, phone 360-385-0300 or visit the website at www.workingimage.org.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.