Prom season begins in a few weeks, and while it conjures up thoughts of corsages, new dresses and special dates, half our students (going by the childhood poverty rate) can’t afford those extras.

But fortunately in Sarasota County, there are lots of fairy godmothers donating dresses and volunteering at Cinderella’s Closet, operated by the Sarasota County Teachers Association. The Closet gave out 1,500 free prom dresses to high school girls throughout Sarasota County last spring, even bringing a school bus filled with girls from North Port to shop. The last day to get a prom gown is this Saturday, April 25, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., so spread the word to girls who need dresses.

“A lot of girls just can’t afford the gowns they need for events,” says Selma Bidot, SCTA’s executive assistant, who has been volunteering at the Closet for several years. “We have dresses year round, for choir events, debutante balls, homecoming, and graduation."

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About 30 girls showed up for dresses on Monday.

“They’re all horrified that they’re here and doubtful they'll find anything,” Bidot says.

Then comes the discovery of that one special dress. “The smiles on their faces, it just makes it all worthwhile,” Bidot says.

As for the fairy godmothers, they include Chris Mayer, an Ashton Elementary School first grade teacher, who started and runs the Closet; women who often buy new, marked down department store dresses to donate; consignment store owners; and teenagers who donate the dresses they wore last year.

You can donate dresses, shoes, bags and accessories at Venice High School or any Sarasota County school year-round. Bidot asks that the dresses be in a bag or box and addressed to SCTA. You can also drop donations at the SCTA office, 4675 S. Tamiami Trail. Call (941) 922-9022 for more information. Check out the happy faces on the group's Facebook page.

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