Thousands of needy Chicago-area high school girls will be able to look dazzling at their proms courtesy of an annual collection of gently-used gowns and accessories.
For the 11th year, Zengeler Cleaners, which has stores in eight communities including Libertyville, participated in the event on behalf of the Glass Slipper Project, a charity that gives gowns to students who can't afford them.
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This year, Zengeler collected more than 3,500 prom dresses, as well as shoes, jewelry, handbags and other accessories valued at about $1.5 million. The items were loaded Friday morning onto a truck at the company's headquarters in Northbrook for deliver to McCorkle School in Chicago, which will serve as a "boutique" to distribute the items.
The focus of the collection is February through April, with the word spread via the Glass Slipper previous donors and recipients and signs at Zengeler and other drop-off points. Dresses have come from students at Stevenson, Deerfield, Libertyville, Lake Forest, Carmel, New Trier and other area high schools, as well as customers and other businesses.
"The generosity of students donating their own dresses, as well as total strangers who purchased and donated brand new dresses is awe inspiring and truly amazing," said Tom Zengeler, president of the company.
Zengeler cleans, presses and makes minor repairs to the dresses at no charge for distribution to the boutiques where students receive help from a personal shopper. Some of the gowns originally sold for hundreds of dollars and some of the donations are new with price tags still attached.
All high school senior girls, no matter where they live, can participate with a school ID.
During its involvement, Zengeler has collected more than 22,000 dresses, the most of any participant.
The Glass Slipper project was founded in 1999 by women who knew that many high school girls can't afford to spend big money on their proms. More than 23,000 high school women have been assisted since.
Boutique shopping opportunities will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on consecutive Saturdays, April 20, 27 and May 4 at McCorkle School, 4421 S. State St., Chicago. Visit http://www.glassslipperproject.org/.