Victoria Draper makes prom a reality for fellow teens who are cash-strapped. Draper is juggling the demands of her first year of college at the University of Delaware, but that hasn't stopped her from continuing The Rose Petal, a community service project she and her mother dreamed up over lunch three years ago.
Draper, 19, collects donated prom dresses. Twice a year, she opens a mobile boutique to outift girls with financial hardship. The girls pick out a prom dress, shoes and jewelry for free. The Washington Township native wants "every girl to find her own dress and feel like a rose," and her middle name is Rose, thus the project's name. This prom season she's given out about 60 dresses.
"We are on a fixed income. It was an unbelievable blessing. We left (the fitting) with everything from top to bottom," said Alletah Biddle, mother of twins Nicolette and Jadzia who attend Overbrook High School in Pine Hill. "It just saved us so, so much money. It was wonderful. It’s a wonderful thing that she does."
Draper's become a 'fairy godsister' of sorts. Biddle said her daughters would not have been able to attend the junior prom last year without her help because it was just too expensive to send two girls on her fixed income. A relative offered to pay for the Biddle girls' senior prom expenses this year.
"We want to ensure we get the girls who really need the dress," said Draper. "I realize that I have a lot more than what other people have even though I might not have everything."
At right, Nicolette and Jadzia Biddle before their junior prom in 2013.
To find clients, Draper reaches out to social workers and local agencies to idenitfy girls who could really use the pick-me-up. Since the mobile open house happens just twice a year, the most recent one having occured in March, she also fields individual requests via The Rose Petal Facebook page and email at email@example.com. The dress donations have come in from across the United States and as far away as California. The 300 dresses in stock are presently stored neatly on racks in storage since the collection of dresses no longer fit in her parent's basement.
Draper spent her youth entering beauty pageants and enjoyed the thrills of dressing up and picking out fancy dresses and shoes. She decided to do a community project and pass the same fun on to girls her age. Draper says she's always accepting donations so her work continues year-round.
Earlier this month, The Steve Harvey Show recognized Draper as one of "Harvey's Heros" and presented her with $5,000 from Green Dot to put toward her good work. She says she plans to put the money toward storage fees, shoes and accessories.
"She's really made a difference for many girls, mine included," said Biddle.