- Fire-scarred California braces for more storms, flash floods
- Homeowners wait for long-promised state hurricane relief
- These are the most infamous October hurricanes
- Flooding in Venice worsens off-season amid climate change
- Drawing Hope: Illustrator volunteers to sketch homes lost in California wildfires
Businesses donated dresses, food, photo services and more to students
PENDER COUNTY — For Pender County families still rebuilding after Hurricane Florence, a sparkly new prom dress, limo ride and glamour shots probably aren’t in the budget. But prom night will still be special for seniors, thanks to local businesses stepping in to play Fairy Godmother.
For weeks, Pender County Schools has been coordinating a donation drive for all of students’ prom essentials. Any student who lost their belongings in the storm, or who just needs help getting a dress, make-up, pictures or special meal, can connect with a donor through her guidance counselor.
The first of the district’s proms, for Pender Early College High School, will be held Saturday.
Diana Yntema, owner of Diana Rose Photography, will be volunteering to take photos at Trask High School’s prom in two weeks.
“Being a parent, I know for kids especially that are having a hard time, normalcy is so important,” Yntema said. “I feel like just going to prom is such a big part of that, especially at that age. … This really helps contribute to them having a normal high school year and a normal high school life.”
In the weeks after Florence, Pender County Schools officials estimated that more than 700 students had been displaced by the storm — nearly 8 percent of the children in the district.
Even families whose homes were spared could have incurred other costs from lost food and belongings, time off work and the expenses of evacuating in September. With a 2015 survey by Visa finding that the average American household spends more than $900 on prom, that could leave many Pender County families unable to afford the big night.
District spokesman Alex Riley said schools won’t know how many students took advantage of the donations until after prom. But local businesses have already donated goods and service to cover every aspect of the dances.
“We’ve gotten pretty good response from the community, and we obviously know it’s going to mean a lot to the students,” Riley said.
Among the donations was a dress drive by Costco employees, and J.C. Penney’s funding two head-to-toe prom night make-overs.
Meghan Petruska, owner of Petal Provisions florist in Wilmington, is donating handmade boutonnieres.
“I’m just very fortunate to be able to participate,” she said. “It’s just something easy that I think we take for granted that can make a big difference in someone’s life.”
‘This is our home’
Yntema, the photographer, moved to Pender County in October, after nine years in Holly Ridge.
While their newly built home came through the storm unscathed, as she, her husband and her kids, drove into their new neighborhood, they saw others that had been devastated.
“When I moved to Pender County, especially right after the hurricane, I knew that I wanted to do something especially for Pender County,” she said. “That was such a huge thing that we stepped into.”
Regina Lefler’s Surf City restaurant, Max’s Pizza, is donating gift certificates for prom night meals. Lefler said chipping into the Pender County Schools drive was part of helping rebuild the morale of the Pender community.
“After the storm when we were able to come back onto the island, every day we saw the devastation, and there are still people trying to recover,” she said.
“This is our home, this isn’t our vacation spot.”
Reporter Cammie Bellamy can be reached at 910-343-2339 or Cammie.Bellamy@StarNewsOnline.com.