Hannah Stimpson is several years out of high school now, but she remembers well the feelings of self-doubt and inequity around prom time. The economics of buying a prom gown and accessories (which can total up to $400-$500) are beyond the reach of many girls in Waldo county, where income levels are recorded as among the lowest in the state. And though it might seem frivolous that teens would yearn for a prom dress so badly, it is the need to fit in, to have one night where you feel equal to the rest of your classmates, that is so deep-seated for most teenagers. Prom night is that night.

Despite her personal struggles, Stimpson got involved with The Cinderella Project of Maine, an annual giveaway where new and gently used prom gowns and accessories are collected and given away to hundreds of high school girls who could not otherwise afford a gown. “I just thought it was really cool we were recycling them,” she said. “It was sort of a ‘pay it forward’ project. I just like helping people and I love the reactions of girls when they try on these dresses, especially when it fits and it’s free!”

This will be the fourth year of the Cinderella Project. As in years past, the gowns will be given away, with one stipulation; girls must do a good deed for someone else. Stimpson is the prime example of the “pay it forward” girl. Though she never even got to wear a prom gown herself, she worked hard to promote the project on radio stations and help hundreds of girls go to their own proms feeling beautiful and self-confident.

This year’s prom dress giveaway will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Reny’s Plaza in Belfast, Maine on April 10. In addition to dresses, girls will be able to try on jewelry and other accessories. Private dressing rooms will be available to try on gowns, and volunteers will be on hand to serve as “personal shoppers” for girls as they coordinate their dresses, shoes, bags and beauty products.

The Cinderella Project of Maine is still in need of donations of clean new or gently used prom dresses (especially plus sizes), along with jewelry, accessories and bags. Drops-offs can be made at Bangor Savings Banks in Unity, Searsport and Belfast branches, at Belfast Area High School’s main office and at Waldo CAP’s office in Belfast.

To read more about Stimpson’s story, and other Cinderella stories and updates, visit facebook.com/cinderellaprojectmaine or cinderellaprojectmaine.webs.com. For more information, contact Mandie Sawyer, 338-6809 ext. 115, or Jessica Woods, 338-1790 ext. 310, or via e-mail at msawyer@waldocap.org