Cinderella’s Closet Gets New Space and Largest Donation Ever

This empty room at Haverhill High School is the new space for Cinderella’s Closet before work was begun. All work and materials are being donated by students in the VIP Club at Haverhill High School.  Cinderella’s Closet will open in its new space on April 11.  (photos courtesy of Susan Finn)

Cinderella’s Closet will be able to help many more Haverhill High School students get ready for prom than ever before, thanks to a new space and a $1000 donation received from Hillie alum, Jim Audibert, class of 1969.

“That’s the biggest [donation] we’ve ever received,” said Dean of the Business Department, Susan Finn, who is also the faculty advisor to Cinderella’s Closet, “he’s been very generous,” she continued, “he has sent $500 every couple of years.”

Audibert made this year’s donation in memory of his mother who recently passed away. She was a strong believer in education and in helping others.

Finn, who took over Cinderella’s Closet about 10 years ago, said, “it’s probably been operating [about 25 years] but it was very informal… it used to be kind of a traveling closet… but we finally have a room, downstairs off the VIP room.”

Dresses waiting to be hung in the new Cinderella’s Closet​ (photo courtesy of Susan Finn)

The room needed a lot of work to get ready for this prom season, replacing the clothing racks, refinishing the floor and weeding through the older, unwanted dresses, which were then handed down to the theater to use as costumes. “The students are doing all the painting,” Finn said, “they’re really doing all the work.”

Cinderella’s Closet started as a way for girls with financial hardship to get the dress and accessories they need to attend the prom. There may have been a stigma about wearing a donated dress at the beginning, but Finn said that’s mostly disappeared,

“These days, more and more girls are coming to me, because the need is there. Everything is so expensive.”

Men’s clothing came later, and they now have quite a collection of ties and suit jackets, as well, Finn said.

Later still, after many years of asking only for donations of clothing and accessories, Finn found herself asking for monetary donations, as well.

“About five or six years ago, I started hearing stories about kids who could get the dress, but couldn’t afford the ticket,” Finn said, “the tickets have gone from $50 up to $85. It was kind of pricing a lot of students out, whether they had a dress or not, so I started sponsoring tickets for the prom.”

The program helps between 15 and 20 students each year with dresses and now another 15 – 20 are helped with the ticket cost, too.

Cinderella’s Closet also received a $500 donation from the school’s Key Club this year and Finn said it came at the best time, just when she was starting to worry whether there would be enough money to go around.

The intention is to not use any of the donated money for the maintenance work. Instead, Finn said that if she has any money left over after buying 15 or 20 tickets, she will go to Marshall’s and buy some new dresses to restock the racks.

Only Haverhill students are eligible to use Cinderella’s Closet and they need to be referred by a teacher or guidance counselor so Finn can be sure they have a legitimate need.

After outfits are chosen, they are brought to EZ-Way Cleaners where they are cleaned for a discount, and after the prom, the students can keep the clothing they chose.

Shantal Aleman, in her 2014 prom dress (photo courtesy of Susan Finn)

Shantal Aleman, HHS Class of 2014, got her dress there and had this to say, ““Cinderella’s Closet was the reason why I went to prom! I couldn’t find any dresses and the price tags didn’t help. Last minute, I decided to just take a look at Cinderella’s Closet, and I ended up finding my prom dress ! I completely fell in love with my black dress. Four years later and I still don’t want to let it go!”

The high school salon, too, provides free hairdo and nails to about five girls on prom day.

Cinderella’s Closet will open the doors of its new room on April 11. Any HHS student can make an appointment to browse the racks.

Finn even encourages mothers to come along, and the entire process can be kept confidential. “Nobody knows you’re at the prom on a sponsored ticket or wearing a dress from Cinderella’s Closet unless you tell them,” Finn said.

This year’s prom is scheduled for May 29 at The Castleton.

New or gently worn formal attire and monetary donations can be dropped off at the Haverhill High School main office.