Ladies League Plays Fairy Godmother to Prom-going Girls in Marshall County

Displaying one of the many gowns available to Marshall County teens for free on Feb. 24 are, from left, Linda Gruzinskas, Cassie Sherman and Jody Hardman of the Ladies League of Marshall County. Their Cinderella Project gives away gowns, shoes and jewelry so girls whose families face economic hardships can still attend prom. Photo by Betsy Bethel

MOUNDSVILLE — Like so many fairy godmothers, the women of the Ladies League of Marshall County have worked their magic to bring ball-worthy attire and accessories within reach of any prom-going junior or senior girl in Marshall County.

The Cinderella Project was conjured by league member Jody (Kuhayda) Hardman, who witnessed a similar undertaking while visiting her daughter in Charleston, W.Va., last year.

“At the time, I thought this would be wonderful for our area,” said Hardman, who noted the economic hardship facing families hit by last summer’s flooding, unemployment and other life situations.

Teens are invited to the fellowship hall of Calvary United Methodist Church, 1601 First St., between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Feb. 24. The hall will be transformed into a showroom of gowns, shoes, purses and jewelry.

Teens can pick out an entire ensemble for free, plus each one will receive a goody bag with makeup and other treats, and a chance to win door prizes. The first 50 teens through the door will receive a quilted makeup bag or accessory bag from Initials Inc., embroidered with the initials CP for Cinderella Project, donated by league member Janie Rickman in memory of her sister, the late Kathy Martin, also a member.

The fellowship hall will have a partitioned area for the girls to try on three dresses at a time. The hall will be decked out with glamorous decor provided by Macy’s, refreshments will be provided and a disc jockey will play music to set the mood.

“The whole idea of this is to reach out to the community,” Hardman said. The response from people wanting to help has been overwhelming.

League president Cassie Sherman secured a grant from the Marshall County Commission to get the ball rolling last summer, and the league has reached out to area businesses who have donated everything from dresses to door prizes. Prizes include pedicures, spray tans, hair styling, restaurant gift cards, corsages and more.

David’s Bridal in St. Clairsville, Suzanne’s Bridal in Wheeling and The Clothes Collection donated new or like-new gowns, as well as jewelry. Many league members bought clearance jewelry and gowns with money that was donated.

“I am amazed that we got so many pretty dresses, and some still had the tags on them,” Hardman said.

“The reaction from the community when we put it out on Facebook was, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a wonderful project,'” Sherman said.

To get the word out to the girls, fliers will be distributed to every junior and senior in the county through their high schools, and ads have been placed in local print media and social media to alert parents.

Sherman said the Ladies League of Marshall County, which was founded in 2015 and has 140 members, has donated money and volunteered for many local service agencies, schools and other nonprofits.

“You do the outreach, and it comes back to you,” she said.

The league is Partners in Education with Center McMechen School and assists with the free backpack ministry. It presents two scholarships a year. League members donated money to members affected by the McMechen flood, and member Beverly Musilli co-chaired the steak fry benefit, at which members volunteered.

The league also has donated money or provided in-kind donations to CASA for Children, Crittenton Services, Harmony House, John Marshall Spirit Club, John Marshall Paws for the Cause, Cameron Quiz Bowl team, Young Life of the Upper Ohio Valley, John Marshall 50th anniversary celebration, Marshall County Back-to-School Fun Fair, Catholic Charities, Marshall County warming shelter, Marshall County Childhood Cancer Awareness, Marshall County Animal Shelter, Noah’s Pantry and Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine, which took place Friday.

Although the outfitting event is a couple of weeks away, the league opened the church storage room where the donations are being kept to allow Night to Shine participants to select dresses last week. Next year, they are considering having the event earlier to include more Night to Shine participants.

The Cinderella Project sponsors include Macy’s, Marshall County Family Resource Network, Paws for the Cause and Calvary United Methodist Church.

For information, call Hardman, 919-274-3263, or any Ladies League member.