PATERSON, NJ – Kathleen Kibler’s finances have been stretched thin lately. The Paterson mother has been undergoing cancer treatment and her bills have been piling up. She wasn’t sure how she would afford a prom dress for her daughter.

Last week she found her answer – the Cinderella For a Day prom dress giveaway run by Natasha Civil of Bloomfield with support from Team HOPE and other community groups.

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“It’s a big help,” said Kibler while registering her daughter for the program on Monday at the Paterson Free Public Library on Broadway.

“It’s a blessing,” said her friend, Diane Miller, also of Paterson.

Most young girls dream of going to the prom. And they want to go in style. But that doesn’t come cheap and the expense seems especially steep in Paterson, where unemployment and poverty afflict many families.

Three years ago, Civil had a vision. She was going to her cousin’s wedding and was looking for a dress online. Then, “just like that,” she said, she decided to have a prom dress drive. Starting “Cinderella for a Day” was something Civil felt compelled to do. She wanted to give every girl a chance to enjoy that special day.

Last year, more than 200 dresses were distributed. This year’s “Cinderella for a Day” giveaway will be held Sat., April 20 from noon to 5 pm at 105 Church St. in Totowa. There will be music, snacks, games, raffles, crafts, cool make-up tips and on-the-spot hair styling.

Although Civil held registration at the library, girls do not have to sign up in advance to get dresses. Those who registered simply will be given first choice. No one will be turned down, according to Civil.

Kiara Brown, 17, was encouraged by her mom to register for a prom dress when she returned her library books last week. Kiara doesn’t have a date for the prom and said, “High school boys aren’t my thing. I’ll stick [hang out] with the girls.”

The prom will be a new experience for Kiara because unlike most teenage girls, Kiara said she’s “not into dresses.”

That’s not a problem, according to Michelle Petrasek, who runs programs for teenagers at the library. There will be styles to suit every girl’s taste, said Petrasek, who helped with previous “Cinderella For a Day” events. She recalled one girl who made her prom dress funky by wearing Converse sneakers.

Civil added, “Kiara has tons of class. We can fix for [any] style!”

Not only do the dresses come in all different styles, sizes and colors, but many of the dresses are brand new and others have only been worn once, Civil said.

And this year, according to Civil, there is an “over flow” of dresses that were donated from churches and dropped off at the Paterson Library. There is also a drop-off at the Bloomfield College.

Jessica Hinds recently started volunteering for Cinderella for a Day because she felt it was a way to give back to the community, as well as motivate and encourage young girls by showing that people care. Hinds heard about the organization on Facebook and explained that she “saw positive things they’re doing and wanted to be a part of it.”

In addition to getting a free prom dress, there are also free shoes, jewelry and accessories. “It’s set up like a store,” said Petrasek, “with changing stations and different stylists.”

“It’s like shopping in your girlfriend’s closet,” added Hinds, who explained it’s set it up that way so the girls feel comfortable and don’t think of themselves as being poor. “It’s something I wish we had when I was in school,” she added.

For more information, contact Natasha Civil at: 973-393-7503; beingcinderella@yahoo.com or Michelle Petrasek at 973-321-1223; Petrasek@PatersonPL.org