Posted on January 8, 2014

San Francisco: Charity that Provides Prom Dresses to Teens Wins $10,000 PG&E Grant

By David Kligman

SAN FRANCISCO — The Princess Project, a nonprofit that promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses to teenagers from low-income families, has won 7×7 magazine’s “Favorite Charities” contest sponsored by PG&E.

PG&E's $10,000 grant will allow The Princess Project to purchase prom dresses and accessories for high school students in need. (Photo courtesy of The Princess Project.)

The magazine announced the winning charity at a ceremony Tuesday night (Jan. 7) at a San Francisco restaurant. This is the third consecutive year PG&E has sponsored the annual contest.

“We are so on cloud nine,” Rachel Giustina, president of The Princess Project’s board of directors, told Currents. “We have tried every year and not even made it past the top 49 finalists, so for us to win the grand prize I thought, ‘I have to pinch myself. Is this really happening?’ We’re forever grateful to PG&E for supporting what we’re doing.”

Last fall, the magazine’s readers nominated nonprofit organizations based in San Francisco. A list of the top 49 charities was then narrowed to seven, including The Princess Project, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, the SF Food Bank and even a volunteer group that rescues injured pigeons and doves.

But it was The Princess Project that collected the most votes in online voting on the magazine’s website.

PG&E's Ezra Garrett, vice president of community relations, presents a $10,000 check to The Princess Project. (Photo by Nikki Ritcher.)

The group began in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2002 when founders Laney Whitcanack and Kristi Smith Knutson responded to a girl who needed a prom dress by organizing a dress drive with friends and family.

Within days, women from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area offered their support through donations of “time, talent and taffeta.” Since then, The Princess Project and its 2,000 volunteers have provided prom dresses to more than 20,000 teens.

Every winter, the organization collects prom dresses for the following spring prom season. The group also collects handbags, jewelry and other accessories. Today the group has locations in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and San Diego.

PG&E provided a $10,000 grant to The Princess Project and $2,000 each to each of the runner-up organizations.

Giustina said her organization will use the money to purchase petite and larger size dresses. She said public donations don’t typically include those sizes and it’s important that young women of all shapes have the opportunity to wear a beautiful and stylish dress.

Every winter, The Princess Project collects dresses for the upcoming prom season. (Photo courtesy of The Princess Project.)

When asked why she thought her organization resonated with the public, Giustina said prom is a special moment in a young person’s life.

“It’s a milestone, something that’s very relatable,” she said. “Everybody has that special prom memory.”

But she said people familiar with The Princess Project also knows that it’s a nonprofit whose mission is to instill self-worth and confidence in high schoolers. Their website includes no body image photos.

“We’re an organization committed to celebrating bodies of all sizes,” she said.

Previous PG&E grant winners from the “Favorite Charities” contest were Upwardly Global and Muttville Senior Dog Rescue.

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