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Stylin' ...with a little help

Sunday, February 5, 2012

(Photo)
Maleah Qualls displays one of her Project Prom dresses.
(T-G Photo by Mitchell Petty)
An agent for Shelter Insurance, Maleah Qualls is -- by nature of occupation -- a busy woman. How she keeps it all together in the springtime is a mystery, though.

In the past two springs, Qualls has selflessly devoted a large chunk of her already demanding schedule to help young ladies enjoy one of the shining moments of their teenage years -- prom.

Giving back

"Project Prom," as Qualls refers to it, is her way of helping those who may not be able to fit that expensive prom dress into their budget by offering formal gown rentals for the cost of dry cleaning.

"I had bought a dress for a wedding that cost $400," Qualls explains. "I wore it for 30 minutes, and then that was it."

Besides the overuse of sequins in fashion, one thing that has changed since the mid-90s is the state of our economy.

"Some people can't afford it," said Qualls. "I had a friend who told me, 'I didn't go -- I couldn't afford it.' I thought that was awful."

Explosive response

Project Prom began last March as a mere thought on Facebook.

"I said that I was 'thinking' about doing this. By saying 'thinking' on Facebook to 1,400 or so friends, I ended up with 15 dresses in the office," Qualls said. "It wasn't just a thought anymore."

(Photo)
(T-G Photo by Mitchell Petty)
In the past year, Qualls' collection of 15 dresses on a rack in her office has grown 10-fold, reaching the neighborhood of 150. Now, she needs an entire room to house Project Prom's inventory.

Currently, Qualls is accepting donations in these forms: Dresses, shoes, jewelry and funds to pay for odds and ends such as closet shelves. Qualls also noted that she is need of larger-sized dresses at the moment. Donations can be made at her Shelter Insurance office on North Main Street.

Pitching in

Others in the community have taken notice of Qualls' efforts, and decided to help her cause. The International House of Prayer church has agreed to give her space to store the dresses, and Blue Ribbon Cleaners has given her a discounted flat-rate for dry cleaning.

Those in need of a dress should call Qualls to set up an appointment to look and try on dresses. For information regarding donations, rentals, or to set up and appointment, call 680-0064 or 209-7866.Maleah Qualls displays one of her Project Prom dresses.



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