Valerie Wong, 16, is already an experienced event planner. She showed her organizational skills last week, overseeing the models' preparation for the Prom Fashion Show at the Shore Mall in Egg Harbor Township for the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Southern Branch.

The Egg Harbor Township High School Key Club President has been active in the service club, associated with Kiwanis International, since freshman year, she said. She made sure the 25 mostly teenage models got their hair and makeup done by students from Shore Beauty School in Pleasantville, who volunteered their time. And she got each model matched with the two donated dresses they would wear, and made sure they were dressed in time and in the proper order for the show.

The idea was to help the food bank raise money, and to help teens find affordable, beautiful prom dresses, said Lisa Burke, of Egg Harbor Township, manager of the food bank's thrift shop in the Shore Mall, Kathleen's Closet Second Chance Shop.

"We felt prom gowns are so expensive, and these are such tough times, we'd try to help out," Burke said. The shop is selling short gowns for $20, and long gowns for $30. New or lightly used formal shoes are $4.

As of mid-week after the fashion show, which attracted an audience of about 50, Kathleen's Closet had sold more than 20 gowns, said Burke. More have been donated, so there is still a good selection. Ro Caprioni, a Rio Grande seamstress, will do free alterations on any prom gown sold by the shop, Caprioni said.

It was Burke's idea to hold a fashion show, and she contacted the Egg Harbor key club for help.

"Right away they jumped on it," said Burke, who has been manager only a few months.

The club collected donated gowns and provided organization, marketing and most of the models for the event. Money raised through the sale of the gowns goes only to the food bank, Wong said.

Other events held by the club during the school year, like its annual volley ball tournament, raised money for a UNICEF program to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in 38 countries, Wong said. The club raised about $10,000 this school year, she said.

Models also came from the ranks of food bank volunteers, like 14-year old Kaitlin Corson, of Hamilton Township, a Davies Middle School student. And professional model India Villanueva, 17, of Galloway Township, a junior at Absegami High School who works with 4 A Star talent agency in Galloway, volunteered her time.

Key Club Vice President Parth Parikh, 17, helped set up stage and chairs near the Food Bank's main temporary headquarters, and worked on the audio system for WMGM-TV 40's Jennifer Husko, mistress of ceremonies. Key club members and sophomores Jesus Perez, 15; and Aaron Chung, 16, acted as ushers.

Christina Wilbert, 18, a senior at Absegami High School who works at the mall information booth, also modeled. She was so happy with the combination bun and long curls created by Shore Beauty School student Carmel Milich, of Linwood, she's going to hire her to do the same style for her for her prom.

"I'm calling her," Wilbert said.

Milich, a 2011 graduate of Mainland Regional High School who has been at Shore Beauty School since October, was thrilled to make Wilbert happy.

"I love that I can make them feel that way," Milich said.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:


Kathleen's Closet

Second Chance Shop

Located in the Shore Mall near the Food Court. Hours 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 609-383-8843 ext. 104.