Free prom dress charity Project Prom helping budget-conscious Minnesota families

Prom season is coming fast and a local charity is trying to make sure money isn’t a reason for girls not to go.

Project Prom is literally giving away dresses.

"It’s a lot of dresses, a very wide selection," said Haley Rosario of Crystal.

Prom shopping has Rosario dreaming of dancing in a beautiful, expensive dress.

"I found one blue one and I think I’m gonna look around more to find maybe a different style, like maybe a tight one," she said.

But whatever color or style or size, Haley and the other young ladies in a Maple Grove showroom won’t pay anything for the dresses they choose.

They’d cost between $100 and $800 out in the wild, but Project Prom collected almost 4,000 of them as donations to give away.

"There is a plethora of them out there," said Project Prom founder Jeni Asaba. "Whether it’s women who have them in their closets that they were worn once, a lot of stores just don’t sell them season to season. So we’re trying to get those into the hands of teens who can really use them."

Asaba founded Project Prom in New York because she saw the huge cost as a barrier to fun, especially for low-income families.

She brought it to Minnesota in 2010, but the project almost didn’t make it to the first dance.

"Our first year in Minnesota had, I think, six girls," Asaba said. "And I kind of felt like ‘Oh, shoot, I don’t know how to do this in Minnesota.’"

They’ve grown ever since — with the exception of the last three years when COVID shut them down just after their first giveaway day in 2020.

"It feels great to bring everything out," said Asaba. "We remember the dresses we had packed away that we were hoping a girl would pick."

They’re back now and making prom budget-friendlier for more than 600 girls in the Twin Cities, like Ashley Bakke.

"My mom is, I wouldn’t say cheap when it comes to clothing, but I would say she’s very strict about how much money we spend on clothes," said the Cottage Grove teen.

She found out about Project Prom accidentally while searching for prom information on her school’s website.

"I just put in ‘prom’ and I saw that there was this thing going on about free prom dresses and I’m like ‘Oh great, I’m definitely signing up for that.’"

Project Prom’s showroom is open again Sunday and then Friday through Sunday next week.

You need to sign up for an appointment on their website,

After the second weekend, they’ll donate a lot of the dress to Arc, which has agreed to sell them each for $20 or less at their three Twin Cities locations – in Bloomington, Richfield, and New Hope.