Cinderella Project finds new home in Harrisonburg mall
By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
HARRISONBURG — The Cinderella Project is coming home to a new castle.
In December 2020, along with other tenants, The Cinderella Project vacated the Staunton Mall, and put dresses in storage in Waynesboro.
On Wednesday, Sept. 1, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., supporters and volunteers are invited to an open house of the new location at Valley Mall in Harrisonburg.
“It’s like a rebirth, a new beginning,” said Kathe Morrison, president of The Cinderella Project. The nonprofit was grateful for the space in the Staunton Mall, but the new space allows for a boutique.
Grant funding is making the move possible, but the move to Harrisonburg means more volunteers are needed.
“It’s our Cinderella moment. We’re coming out of storage and we’re setting up the store,” Morrison said.
Before the open house on Wednesday, volunteers will have brought four 26-foot truck loads of clothing from storage in Waynesboro to the Valley Mall store.
Morrison said the store location at the Valley Mall will bring the nonprofit more foot traffic, as well as allow parents more options while they wait for their children to shop.
“We’re excited that we have a new location, and that we can get set up as soon as possible,” Morrison said.
For prom next spring, Morrison said that students will be able to check the nonprofit’s Facebook page for a QR code and use it to make an appointment.
“We’re excited, because, of course, it’s in a beautiful mall with a lot of traffic,” said Rhonda Howdyshell, who founded The Cinderella Project in 2004 to serve students in need of homecoming, prom and other formal occasion clothing.
The nonprofit was in a 3,000-square-foot space in Staunton Mall, and is moving into a 3,500-square-foot space in the Valley Mall.
The new space has a big storage area for dresses, seven dressing rooms and a three-way mirror.
“This is the first time we’ve had a three-way lighted mirror,” Howdyshell said.
According to Howdyshell, the Valley Mall is central to The Cinderella Project’s service area of Harrisonburg, Augusta and Rockbridge Counties, Staunton and Waynesboro. The nonprofit serves 32 area high schools.
Howdyshell said funding to move into the new store comes from a $1,000 grant made possible by the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge. Funding to pay rent in the Valley Mall comes from a $13,000 state grant from the Neighborhood Assistance Credits of the Virginia Department of Social Services. And the Valley Mall agreed to rent space to the nonprofit in the form of in-kind rent.
On Saturdays in September, according to Howdyshell, The Cinderella Project will host “Our Short Dresses” fundraisers. An overstock of dresses will be available for sale to the public, as well as for local students preparing for this fall’s homecoming dances.
Anyone attending the open house or shopping in the nonprofit’s new store is asked to wear a mask and social distance.
Volunteers are needed at the Harrisonburg store, and the nonprofit also welcomes donations of clothing, funds, and corsages from local florists.
“Anything that can help,” said Morrison.