PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 2, 2013

Volunteers create prom for foster teens

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

GROVES — Shatorri sat in a folding metal chair in her pink prom dress as a volunteer curled her hair into tight, bouncy spirals. She held in her hands a pair of shiny silver sandals.

In just a few hours, Shatorri, 18, would put those silver shoes on her feet and dance the night away with her fellow foster friends at The Courtyard in Groves for the 8th Annual Prom Project.

Foster teenagers from 15 counties got together Saturday to partake in the prom project held by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

While the young women indulged in an afternoon of lunch, dress-browsing and makeup sessions at The Courtyard, the young men ate at Buffalo Wild Wings in Beaumont before getting haircuts and shaves and picking out their suits at Al’s Formal Wear.

Come 6 o’clock, the young men arrived at The Courtyard in Corvettes provided by the Tri-City Corvette Club for dinner and a Cirque du Soleil-style ball.

But Shatorri and the other foster teens would not get to celebrate prom in this special setting if it were not for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the volunteers from the community who made the event possible.

Shari Pulliam, DFPS media specialist, came up with the idea for the annual prom project when she realized the foster teens she worked with did not attend their proms. So, she helped them acquire the appropriate attire to send them to their proms, but still they did not go.

Some of the foster teens moved around so much that they did not feel comfortable going to prom, Pulliam said. So she had another idea.

“I brought the prom to them,” she said.

As a Groves resident, Pulliam knew her community was “outpouring with volunteers,” so she approached them about the prom project. The Courtyard volunteered the space. Mary Kay donated makeup and consultants. The Southeast Texas Career Institute brought cosmetology students to do hair,  makeup and nails. And the volunteers brought dresses — lots and lots of dresses.

“Everybody embraces the project,” she said.

Eight years later, Pulliam has more than 800 dresses from which the young women may choose. Shattori picked out a pink dress — the “perfect one” — and shoes to match. That’s her favorite part, getting “dolled up,” she said.

Volunteers from the Valero Port Arthur Refinery collected shoes, dresses and jewelry from coworkers, family, friends and their own closets for the occasion. About 12 Valero employees volunteered Saturday.

This was the fourth year for Valero employee Denise Taylor to volunteer. She always has a lot of fun, but it is also a rewarding experience for her to see the young women enjoy themselves, she said.

“They’re transformed,” Taylor said.

email: bcrum@panews.com

twitter: @broocrum