Omaha business to give free homecoming dresses to MHS students

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Marshalltown High School students will have hundreds of dresses to choose from during a donation from CinderellaÕs Formal Gown Rental Sept. 8. The dresses will be available free to junior and seniors, while freshmen and sophomores can get one for $15.

After hearing about the destruction in Marshalltown on July 19, one Omaha business owner decided to do what she could to help.

“I said ‘We’ve got to get involved,'” said Cinderella’s Formal Gown Rental owner Terri Smieja. “When you are a business owner and you have something you can give back …. why wouldn’t you do it?”

First, Smieja said school supplies were gathered and sent to Marshalltown ahead of the current school year, which became part of a large local and interstate effort to get supplies to Marshalltown students. Now, Smieja wants to help by offering free dresses to students ahead of the Marshalltown High School Homecoming Dance.

High School special education teacher and homecoming coordinator Val Hunt said she and her daughter, fellow special education teacher and coordinator Emily Hunt, appreciate the planned donation by Cinderella’s.

“Students are not required to wear a dress, but hopefully this kind gesture will ease the burden for those who would otherwise not attend,” Hunt said.

The dresses will be given free to any junior or senior girl who wants one. Freshman and sophomores will be able to pick up a dress for $15.

Smieja said dresses are an important tradition when it comes to high school dances.

“It’s so important that you look pretty, that they have that dress,” she said. “I think when you look pretty, you feel good.”

With many MHS students dealing with the aftermath of the tornado, Smieja said being able to focus on looking good and enjoying the homecoming dance will be good for students.

“They’re going through some very humbling times in their life … to have a dress and know that somebody else cared … I just hope I’m bringing them something they like.”

There will be plenty of dresses for students to choose from when Cinderella’s staff arrive on Sept. 8. Smieja said 500 dresses have been gathered thus far.

She said Iowa is a “sister state” to Nebraska and that is part of why she felt compelled to help.

District Director of Communications Andrew Potter said others can feel free to drop off gently-used dresses at the MHS main office. One local business to donate dresses was Willard’s Furs and Fashions.

Potter said the Sept. 8 dress pick-up will be done on a first come, first served basis.

“We’re appreciative of the sign donation from Cinderella Dress Outlet,” he said. “We continue to receive a lot of support in many ways since the tornado.”

The MHS Homecoming Dance is set for the evening of Sept. 29 at the high school building, 1602 S. 2nd Ave.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com