TAMPA (FOX 13) - Prom season is a special time for teens to get together and celebrate their friendships and achievements, but going to the prom get be expensive, especially for families struggling to make ends meet.
For 13 years, however, a Bay Area woman has made it her mission to help those students get to prom in style, and under budget.
When teens come into Susan Schwartz's Belle of the Ball Project boutique, they're greeted by the pleasant manners of a gracious department store salesperson.
"We have every style color that you might want," Schwartz said to Jamie Hernandez, who needed a dress for her prom.
She doesn't sell the dresses. She gives them away.
"We're an organization that provides prom and homecoming dresses to in-need, low income high school girls who desperately want to attend their high school prom or homecoming," she explained.
Susan started the Belle of the Ball Project 13-years ago with a few prom and homecoming dresses from family and friends. She now has thousands.
"It's been a lot of hard work, but it has been so fulfilling and just so wonderful to see the smiles on the girls' faces," Schwartz explained.
Jamie Hernandez found out about the grassroots effort from her school social worker.
"I'm extremely thankful that they were able to supply me with a dress, and all because I wouldn't have been able to go to attend the prom," Jamie explained. "It's big because you can spend one more party, like, with your friends."
The experiences students will have at prom are what Schwartz said touches her heart.
"To see the girls receive that perfect dress and be able to attend their high school dance, which is such an important time in their life, that's what makes it all worth it," she said.
Schwartz has provide more than 4,000 dresses to teen girls to attend formal affairs.
For more information about the project, visit www.belleoftheballproject.com.