Prom Prep Makes Every Girl a Princess

Valley Beth Shalom and other houses of faith pitch in to give teens in foster care a day of pampering and beauty.

Every social hall, meeting room and even the sanctuary at Encino synagogue was abuzz with the business of beauty on Sunday. Hundreds of volunteers from VBS, LA County Department of Family and Children’s Services (DCFS), local churches and community groups were there to make 120 teen girls in foster care feel like princesses for the day. 

“It’s rough being a teenager, it’s not easy, and I just want them to know that they’re beautiful,” said Lovette Panthier, the driving force behind Prom Prep 101.

Panthier, is Supervising Children’s Social Worker and Resource Coordinator with DCFS.  In addition to her myriad duties she assumed leadership of the Adopt a Child Abuse Caseworker (ACAC) program, which was first reported about in almost two years ago. The 14–19 year old girls participating are all clients in the ACAC program. 

A couple of dozen hair and makeup stations were operating full tilt for four hours and the hall full of gowns looked like the best day ever at Lohman’s. Prom Prep volunteers wore pink shirts and tiaras in keeping with the regal theme. The electric energy of the event’s controlled chaos is captured in the video story. 

Each girl was assigned a personal stylist who shepherded her from station to station and helped her get dolled up. In addition to brand new gowns, the dress boutique offered foundation garments, shoes, jewelry and other accessories. There were even seamstresses on hand to perform alterations. 

“Some of the girls have difficult backgrounds, they’ve been through a lot of bad things,” said Randi Simonhoff, social action coordinator at VBS. “Quite a few of them arrive really unhappy and they turn out so happy and feeling good about themselves after today.”

Primped and pampered, their portraits made, the teens lined up for their ceremonious presentation. Actress Annie McKnight announced each name, as formally attired men from local churches and synagogues escorted the girls down a red carpet while their stylists, volunteers and families looked on. 

Inspirational messages were shared by VBS Rabbi Noah Farkas, The Reverend Kelvin Truitt of the Living Room Church in Van Nuys, and The Reverend Lindsey Carnes of Kirk o’ the Valley Presbyterian Church in Reseda. 

Faith communities, non-profits and businesses can adopt any of the valley’s 150-200 DCFS social workers and help them support their clients with birthday cards, holiday baskets, emergency home furnishings and events like Prom Prep 101. With only 30 or so caseworkers adopted so far, there are plenty more to go around.

“If you’re looking for something for your church to do … we’re right here in Chatsworth. Come knock on our door and help us out, sponsor a family,” suggests Panthier. Individuals, too, can fulfill a never-ending agency need by donating new and gently used children’s books for the office’s lobby where kids come in all the time.

Email Lovette Panthier or phone 818-717-4686 for more information about ACAC and what your organization can do to help children and families in dire straits.

Randi Simenhoff May 09, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Wonderful coverage of this wonderful event! Linda, you always present heartfelt programs just the way they are. Keep 'em coming!
Linda Rubin May 09, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Thanks so much, Randi, and right back at ya. The work of Chesed Connection is awesome.
Donna Mae Pitluck May 09, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Linda, You did a wonderful job of reporting factually and objectively about this event. It is truly an inspiring and joyful happening. Thank you for bringing it to the community's attention. Volunteers are always needed and appreciated. Donna Mae Pitluck
Anna King May 10, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Thank you, Randi and Donna Mae, and thank you Linda for your great video and article!
Sandra Coopersmith May 10, 2012 at 03:17 AM
What a terrific story, and what a great antidote to so much of what I read! The beauty of the girls is reflected in the loving souls of the wonderful volunteers who made this teenage dream a reality.


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