Alumni Chapter Seeks Fairy Godmother

BLACKSBURG — Only two of the dozen or so high school girls living at Tekoa home in Floyd have gotten dresses for their upcoming prom, but each of them has had her dress on about four times in preparation.

“I’m not wearing a stupid dress,” one of the girls reacted at first when she heard of the idea for a prom hosted by the New River Valley Chapter of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association for residents of the Tekoa Girls and Boys homes.

As it happened, she was one of the first two girls who was matched with one of the dresses being contributed for the prom. And she looked beautiful in it, said Tiffany Smith, activities director for Tekoa. “We couldn’t get her out of it.”

Another girl was upset over the whole idea because she did not think any of the borrowed or donated dresses would fit her.

“She was the next one to find a dress,” said Smith, who has seen her wearing it at least four times. “She keeps putting it on.”

Tekoa started about six years ago as a residential treatment center for troubled teens on a 70-acre site in Floyd, where they also attend school. They may be referred to Tekoa by the courts system or social services departments. Funding for Tekoa comes through social services, educational monies, and Virginia Mountain Housing because Tekoa is providing homes for young people who might otherwise have none.

The project began coed but eventually went to all girls in Floyd. More recently, Tekoa has opened a separate residential and educational facility for boys on the St. Albans property in Radford.

Heather McElrath, president of the Alumni Association’s New River Valley Chapter, got the idea for a prom for these youngsters months ago when Tekoa representatives contacted her around football season for some tickets to athletic events.

Thinking ahead, McElrath said, “Why not give them something like a prom?” And now she and the Tekoa folks are hustling to bring it together for the evening of June 2.

“The community is really coming together well,” McElrath said. The Virginia Tech School of the Arts has arranged for the prom to be held in the Squires Student Center. Rooms have been offered in the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center for the boys and girls to don their prom attire, rather than dressing at the Tekoa sites and packing themselves into a van for the trip to Donaldson Brown.

Hokie Beach and Downtown Dollar in Blacksburg are offering to do hair, nails and offering gift packs for the girls. The Rivermill Map Company will provide food. The Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Society of Virginia Tech will help with decorations. Magnifico Photography will take photos for the prom-goers.

They are still trying to find a disc jockey and tuxedoes for the boys. “We have a handful of dresses,” she said. “Our desperate need actually is stuff for the guys. … The dresses, I think, will come.”

Ray’s Maytag is providing cardboard boxes for the students to cut into prom decorations, although Smith admitted she is not sure how the painted cardboard stars and other items will be transported to the prom site in Blacksburg.

“It’ll be a very interesting day,” she said.

Meanwhile, the effort continues to collect used formal dresses, from individuals, sororities and other places McElrath has thought to try. The girls will try on dresses each Sunday, each one ranking her preference, with the idea of getting matches for all the girls in time for the prom. Shoes to go with the dresses are also needed.

“What we are trying to do is get dresses donated,” she said. “They want a Cinderella night and we’re trying to give it to them.”

Anyone willing to provide a dress or lend a tux, or wanting information about pickup or drop-off arrangements, can contact McElrath at 231-8508 or Smith, at the Tekoa site in Floyd, at 745-3887, extension 18.

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition) Dellinger, Paul. “ALUMNI CHAPTER SEEKS FAIRY GODMOTHERS TEKOA PROM SET FOR JUNE 2.” Roanoke Times [VA], 8 May 2001, p. NRV1. Infotrac Newsstand, Accessed 24 Mar. 2019.