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.