Employee Spotlight: Diane Shaw, Cinderella’s Closet
Shaw, a veteran school bus driver for DATTCO’s Burrillville, RI terminal, is currently basking in the glory of a 4th successful season of Cinderella’s Closet – a service for teen girls and women in need of formal wear. Cinderella’s Closet is the brain child of Sharon Brunelle and Diane Shaw who, four years ago, identified a need in their community – many teens girls and their families were feeling the burden of prom expenses from hair, make-up and accessories, to the all-important gown, and decided to start a program that provided these young women with gently loved gowns…for free.
As word spreads each year about Cinderella’s Closet, more women find their way there to be dressed for their important occasion. This year Diane not only had the pleasure of dressing girls for prom, but for graduation and Digiport (digital portfolio) Presentations. She also assisted several women from the Homeless Advocacy Group in Newport and Woonsocket, who were attending “adult proms”. She was approached by the Lighthouse Community Organization Food Pantry, based in Providence, RI, to provide dresses and accessories for a fundraising fashion show. Diane has even outfitted brides and bridal parties.
Diane opens Cinderella’s Closet in an office space at the bus terminal on Pascoag Road during February school break, and packs it up on May 31st. During the “off season” she stores the leftover items at her home. She has built relationships with all the women who’ve utilized the service over the years, and many of them feel comfortable reaching out to her when they need a dress during the time the Closet isn’t open, and she’s always thrilled to accommodate them.
“When the women fall in love with a dress, they are elated. Their reaction means more to me than they even realize. It’s the most rewarding feeling,” said Diane, who makes a point to hug every woman who walks through the door.
In the 4 years Diane has been managing this project, the demand has grown from 8 dresses in the first year of operation to 56 this year. In total, she has provided 136 dresses to women of all ages. (And that doesn’t include the number of accessories also given away!)
But Diane certainly couldn’t do this alone. During its first year, Diane and Sharon worked together to coordinate dates and posted flyers at the high school to advertise the service. DATTCO not only provided the office space to be transformed into Cinderella’s closet for 3 and a half months, they also provided bus transportation from Connecticut’s Plainfield High School to the Burrillville terminal in Rhode Island – over 30 miles away. Each year, the husband of one of Diane’s fellow school bus driver’s assists with designing and printing promotional materials out of the local print shop he owns, graciously doing all the work for free. When the weight of the gowns proved to be too much for the racks, and many collapsed, Diane’s colleagues Charlie Dean, Eleanor Robert (and her husband George) pitched in to build heavy duty racks, all on their own dime. And other fellow drivers have provided their talents in hair styling and alterations over the years.
Diane accepts donations of gently used dresses, shoes and accessories year-round. Those interested in donating should call (401) 300-2926, or (401) 371-2774. Donations ca
n also be dropped off directly at the bus yard, located at 404 Pascoag Main Street, Pascoag, RI.
Read an article about Cinderella’s Closet published in the Providence Journal.