Clients waiting to get their hair styled might notice something new and flashy at the salon: a rack of prom dresses.
Salon Halo, located at 4101 West Broadway Ave. in Robbinsdale, is collecting dresses for Project Prom, an affordable prom dress initiative. Those in need of a prom dress can sign up for a 30-minute shopping slot to pick out a free dress later this spring in Maple Grove.
Project Prom does not require proof of low-income status or enrollment in high school to pick out the dress.
“We just say anybody in need of a prom dress,” Jeni Asaba, creator of Project Prom, said. “And then we put in our communication that we’re LGBTQIA-friendly, because we want everybody.”
Adults with disabilities attending prom-like events are welcome to pick out a dress as well. Shoppers will still need to find shoes, makeup and accessories, but Project Prom strives to cut out the largest expense making it difficult for people to attend prom.
“(Volunteers) help anybody pick out their dress,” Asaba said. “We get some girls who come in and they’ve never shopped for a formal before. They’re not really sure what size they are, so we have volunteers there to help them sort through; we have anywhere between two to three thousand dresses for them to pick from ... which can be really overwhelming.”
History of Project Prom
In 2007, Asaba was working at Bronx Community College, addressing homelessness and hunger.
“I told my interns, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we collected prom dresses and gave them away to the girls at the high school?’” Asaba said, knowing that there are a lot of low-income folks in the New York City borough.
Asaba organized the collection of over 200 dresses the first year, ensuring all the girls in the high school could attend prom.
In 2008, Asaba moved to Minnesota. She knew she wanted to take Project Prom with her. The first year Project Prom went live in Minnesota, 2010, Asaba collected 179 dresses for six shoppers. The project grew every year. By 2016, about 100 shoppers could choose from around 1,000 dresses.
Sometime during the 2016-2017 academic year, Asaba was getting her hair styled at Salon Halo, when she broached the subject of Project Prom with store owner Amanda Kist.
Kist agreed to make her Robbinsdale business a dropoff point for dresses.
“It made sense,” Kist said. “We have a fair amount of clients whose kids go to local high schools ... We wanted to be part of that platform that takes care of our community.”
Locations and dropoff points changed, but popularity of Project Prom grew. By 2019, 400 shoppers were picking from over 1,500 dresses.
In 2020, Asaba’s organization collected approximately 3,000 dresses. More than 600 people were registered when the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the event after the first night. Proms, dress-donation events and everything came to a stop. During 2021 and 2022, Asaba worked with Arc’s Value Village to supply people with dresses, but held no events.
This year will be the first time since 2019 that Project Prom will again host free shopping events.
This year’s details
Those wishing to donate dresses may bring a gently used or new gown to Salon Halo in Robbinsdale, Jamf in Minneapolis (11th floor, 100 Washington Ave.) or Hilger Face Center in Edina by Saturday, March 11. People can donate dresses during the shopping events as well.
People looking for dresses can sign up for a time slot March 25, 26 and 31 and April 1 and 2. The shopping events will be at The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes, 12459 Elm Creek Boulevard in Maple Grove. Registration and more information is available at projectprom.us.
Disabled prom-goers who would benefit from a quieter, less crowded shopping experience and people wishing to volunteer may contact Jeni Asaba at email@example.com.
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