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‘Black Tie Express’ trolley collects prom clothes for students in need

Once school resumes, hundreds of teens in need will be dressed to the nines thanks to two women and the Charlotte County community.

Vice Mayor of Punta Gorda, Lynne Matthews, and Nannette Leonard are behind “The Black Tie Express,” a trolley traveling around town Monday to collect clothes for families who cannot afford formal attire for their child’s prom.

“There are so many kids in need in the county and if we can just make 100 kids’ dreams come true, that they can go to prom and look like Cinderella and Prince Charming that night, that’s what it’s all about,” Matthews said.

The “Black Tie Express” is driving around town to collect prom clothing donations to give to kids in need. (WINK News)

This all started when Matthews wanted to clean out her own closet and posted on Facebook asking where she could donate gowns she no longer wears. Her friend, Nanette Leonard, had the idea to transform public transportation into their vehicle for giving back these clothes to local students.

“I think that this time in a child’s life is so special and to have the memory of going to a prom and the kids that we got these clothes for…they didn’t have the financial means…so for us to be able to give them these quality dresses, some of which were never worn, it’s really gonna make them a nice memory and make them feel special,” Leonard said.

It was Charlotte High School’s LEO Club that came up with the “Black Tie Express” title, and these students helped decorate the trolley and collect donations from the community at various stops. Michael Riley, Charlotte County Public Schools’ Community Liason, said the combined efforts will have a huge impact.

“We have 18 of our 20 schools on what’s called a community eligibility program that’s based on socioeconomics of the families and they receive free lunch and free breakfast,” Riley said. “This way, when prom time comes, these kids will be the best-dressed kids in the community.”

It’s that community that Matthews and Leonard want to give credit to for The Black Tie Express’s success and a trolley full of beautiful gowns, tuxedos, shoes and other items they look forward to giving to those in need.

The “Black Tie Express” is driving around town to collect prom clothing donations to give to kids in need. (WINK News)

“The trolley, when we pulled in and how much stuff is on it, just taking a look at it brought tears to my eyes,” Matthews said.

Tears of joy knowing all of the donations they collected will help give Charlotte students a night to feel special and shine.

If you have formal attire or other contributions you’d like to make to this cause, you can contact Lynne Matthews at 941-380-1788 or Nannette Leonard at 908-618-1776. Both women also encourage people to contact Charlotte County High School at 941-575-5450 and ask for the LEO Club regarding donations.

Reporter:Melinda Lee
Writer:Briana Harvath
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