[SLIDESHOW=42403,42404,42405]ANNA, Texas (BP) — Amber Peterson* never thought she would go to the prom. Like other girls, she fantasized about what it would be like to get dressed up in a pretty gown and spend an enchanted evening with friends. But those dreams had been put aside with the realities of daily life.
When Amber, a high school senior, approached her parents about going to the prom, they told her she would be responsible for all the expenses. With a heavy heart, Amber made plans to work, not to earn money for the prom, but during the prom so she would have an excuse not to go.
Yet, quite unexpectedly, Amber found herself standing in front of a mirror, almost not believing that the young woman dressed in a stunning evening gown was her.
Amber and 10 other girls took their ticket for “The Cinderella Project” and spent an afternoon in March trying on dresses, shoes and jewelry — all donated so these young women could have a fairytale prom they would always remember.
The project was hosted by The Crossroads Community Church, partnering with Anna High School northeast of Dallas to provide prom dresses for girls who were nominated by their teachers and other staff.
Project coordinator LaRissa Kemp said it all started when one of the women in the church plant had a used prom dress she wanted to donate. Soon there were more than a hundred dresses. And, in a very short time “The Cinderella Project” was born.
In an email to the school staff, Anna High School counselor Lana Borgman wrote, “Anna High School has a Fairy Godmother, Crossroads Community Church…. [T]hey will treat these beauties to brunch, and then make their dream come true by presenting them with a prom gown of their choice.”
“What affected me most,” Borgman said, “was the fact that this not only touched them on that personal level, it impacted the family. And, by impacting the family it impacted our community. Watching these young ladies tear up as a result of this was very touching.
“That is our goal as educators, to make a difference in the life of a child. And, through this partnership with Crossroads, we did.”
From the standpoint of a Christian educator in a public school, Borgman added, it’s important to make certain that everything is politically correct and lawful. “This gave us an opportunity to reflect the light and love of Christ without ever having to say a single word, just showing the love,” she said. “Students don’t know that you care until you show them that you care.”
As Amber marveled on all that happened, she noted, “Usually churches and schools are so separate because of the laws. But the fact they could come together and create something like this was really nice.”
Sixteen-year-old Zoe Roepling, an exchange student from Germany, attended her first prom on April 16 at Anna High.
“We don’t have anything like this in Germany,” Zoe said. “And we certainly don’t have people giving away fancy dresses.”
Churches in Germany don’t really do things like this for their community, Zoe said. They might have some events for little children, but nothing for older teenagers and adults. “Here in America, churches are more like a big family,” she said.
Kemp, wife of Crossroads pastor Shawn Kemp, said the church plant marches “to the beat of a different drum. We have three goals: Loving God, Loving People and Rocking the World. So, giving prom dresses to girls, that’s loving your neighbor. And that is definitely reaching out into your community and showing them love. And it’s doing it with no strings attached.”
During the Cinderella event, the girls were encouraged by speaker Rachel Nalls to remember that no matter how beautiful they would be on prom night, the next morning when the hairpins come out and the dress goes into the closet, Jesus will always find them beautiful.
As Amber recounted, “They told us that no matter how you look at yourself, He will always love you, and He always thinks that you are beautiful, and that He created you exactly the way you are, and that is how you are supposed to be. I liked that part the best.”
Another result of the project, Kemp said, was what it did within the congregation of about 200.
“A lot of the people who worked on The Cinderella Project had never worked a church event before,” she said. “These were people who had never before used their gifts in the church, and now they were getting to.”
In addition to the donation of dresses, shoes, jewelry and other items, people donated gift cards as door prizes, made cookies in the shapes of glass slippers and crowns, and provided decorations for the event.
“Everybody played a role somewhere,” Kemp said. “And we found that a lot of us who were working the event had never been to a prom. So, even though a lot of the women never got to go to their own prom, they were excited to bless some girls and make it possible for them to attend their prom.”
Crossroads member Devora McPherson said it was an opportunity to show the community that church is not just a place where you show up on Sunday.
“We are not going to chase you down, knocking door-to-door. But we are going to be there to love on you no matter where you are in life and … that’s a different level of outreach,” McPherson said. “It’s not what anyone expects to see from a church. That is what this is about — Christ’s love shown from person to person.”
“I think that goes under ‘Rocking the World,” Kemp said. “We rocked the world right here at home.”