The Cinderella Project, from its new home at the Valley Mall, seeks volunteers
By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
HARRISONBURG — The Cinderella Project is shining in its new location in Valley Mall at 1925 E. Market Street.
Dresses, jewelry, shoes, mall visitors interested in what the nonprofit has to offer.
But, there’s something missing.
Volunteers are needed for Saturdays during prom season from Feb. 26 to May 28.
“It’s looking fabulous,” said Rhonda Howdyshell, who founded the nonprofit 18 years ago. “Better than it has ever looked. Imagine the most prestigious, elite shop.”
Howdyshell said that’s how she, volunteers and board members hope students will feel when they come to the Harrisonburg location.
“They will feel valued,” she said.
Despite moving from the Staunton Mall after it closed in December 2020 to the Valley Mall, Howdyshell said the nonprofit continues to have community support from Staunton and Augusta County. At the nonprofit’s short dress sale, she took inventory of visitors and 50 percent were from Harrisonburg, 50 percent from Staunton and Augusta.
“I would have expected it to be predominantly people from the Harrisonburg area,” she says. But the nonprofit’s reputation has followed it, and school systems all over the Valley continue to support its mission of providing the Cinderella experience for teenage girls when they need formal wear for an event.
Teenage boys are not excluded in the nonprofit’s mission. Howdyshell said that cinder-fellas are welcome to come try on suits and other formal wear.
Prom season will be by appointment only so that the nonprofit can stay COVID-19 safe.
“We have to control how many people are in the shop,” Howdyshell said.
Across from Books-A-Million in the mall, foot traffic is not a problem for the nonprofit. Mall visitors are often interested in what the store has to offer, but formal wear at The Cinderella Project is not for sale.
“You’ve got lots of people who need formal wear,” Howdyshell said.
Mall visitors are welcome to make appointments during prom season, however, as appointments are available.
“Right now, I don’t have enough volunteers,” she said for the 14 Saturdays during prom season to help provide the fairy godmother experience for students.
The nonprofit has had volunteers who are seniors at Turner Ashby High School.
“That has been a joy working with them,” Howdyshell said.
And the nonprofit, which is able to provide certified volunteer hours, has reached out to JMU, MBU and Bridgewater College requesting volunteers.
“This is all new to us. We’re excited,” Howdyshell said of being in the Valley Mall. “The management there believes in the project and are glad we are there.”
Volunteers, who must be at least 13 years old, can go to https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70a0548aca92ea6fb6-volunteers1,
and sign up for volunteer shifts at The Cinderella Project. The nonprofit welcomes teenage boys and girls to volunteer.