Phoenix non-profit offers $10 prom dress for families in need of discount
In 1971, Joyce Jesko almost couldn’t go to her high-school prom because her family couldn’t afford to send her.
“My father simply said, ‘No,’” Jesko said, “but my mother told him she didn’t care if we had to eat hot dogs for a month — I was going to go to my prom.”
Jesko wore a turquoise lace gown with a huge front bow.
Now, Jesko makes prom dreams come true for other girls whose families can’t fork out big bucks for a special dress.
She created the non-profit Fairy Godmothers Inc., which helps high-school girls facing financial hardship attend their prom by selling dresses at a steep discount. It’s one of several organizations in the Valley that collects donated prom dresses and provides them to girls for little or no cost.
Fairy Godmothers is hosting its second weekend of Prom Fair on Saturday and Sunday at Phoenix’s Metrocenter Mall. High-school junior and senior girls can buy dresses for $10 and accessories for under $6.
It can help reduce prom’s price tag: American families will spend an average of $1,000 for each prom attendee annually, according to a 2012 Visa Inc. survey.
Years ago, Jesko read a news article about a Valley woman who collected and donated prom dresses out of her garage. Jesko met with the woman and decided to create a non-profit organization that would provide dresses on a larger scale.
Jesko researched the idea and came across the Glass Slipper Project, a prom-dress organization out of Chicago that Oprah Winfrey featured on her talk show in 1999.
In March 2001, Jesko flew to Chicago and volunteered with the organization. She was so impressed, she decided to model her own after it.
Jesko, who lives in Arizona during the winter months and Pennsylvania the rest of the year, started her organization on the East Coast first. After becoming comfortable running it there, Jesko brought the program to Arizona in 2008.
She has grown its Prom Fair location from a community church to Metrocenter.
“Working with Metrocenter has felt like I died and went to heaven,” Jesko said. “There are seven dressing rooms in the back for girls to try dresses on in.”
On Saturday, Brittany Goldberg, a junior at Scottsdale’s Horizon High School, said about 20 girls and their parents stood in line in front of her.
“The whole time I was waiting in line, I was shaking because I was so nervous I wouldn’t find a dress,” she said.
Goldberg didn’t find one dress she really liked — she found two. Prom Fair rules say a girl can only leave with one, though.
Goldberg opted for a red two-piece with a strapless top and a floor-length skirt.
“I had come in wanting a red dress, so I decided to leave with a red dress,” she said. “I almost got teary-eyed.”
Goldberg also bought shoes and a handbag to go with the dress. Her final cost: $22.
Jesko said emotional reactions aren’t uncommon.
“We get a lot of hugs,” she said.
Fairy Godmothers doesn’t require the girls to show proof of financial hardship, but they do need a valid school ID.
A personal shopper helps them select the dresses, but parents aren’t allowed in the store to avoid “chaos,” Jesko said.
David’s Bridal donates about half the dresses from the previous prom season, Jesko said.
The rest come from donations at partnering high schools.
Similar programs have cropped up statewide.
Melissa Tureaud co-founded Tucson’s Cinderella’s Closet in 2009 with her sister, Jennifer McCaig.
The sisters give away about 200 dresses a year. Tureaud said they get mailed donations from all over the state and even from out of state.
In fact, one year the sisters received a donation of formal dresses from a Hollywood movie set, Tureaud said.
“We have about 600 dresses right now,” she said. “We just need the girls to come and get them.”