Hometown Heroes: Eva Fackeldey

Founder of the Cinderella-Cinderfella Project Eva Fackeldey.

Founder of the Cinderella-Cinderfella Project Eva Fackeldey.

By Joan Frances –

What makes a person beautiful? Is it hair, great skin, a warm smile? What about confidence, compassion and generosity? Can it be a great personality, laughing eyes and a positive disposition? All of these variables and many more combine to make a beautiful person. For many young people, beauty is difficult to achieve. Emotional, financial and family circumstances beyond their control influence disappointment and despair. Sugar Land resident Eva Fackeldey had a vision to help high school seniors wishing they could participate in a homecoming dance or the prom, and she named it The Cinderella-Cinderfella Project.

Sixteen years ago, Fackeldey was the president of the Rotary Club and set out to start an outreach program. She wanted something personal and individual for underprivileged high school students who felt ignored and helpless. She wanted to do something for students to help build confidence and make them feel beautiful and loved. Fackeldey learned from talking to counselors at several Fort Bend schools that there were seniors unable to attend the high school dances because they could not afford extravagant clothes.

The collection of prom day attire at Miriam’s Closet.

The collection of prom day attire at Miriam’s Closet.

The idea of helping a senior girl and boy attend prom was the perfect scenario. With the assistance of social workers from Fort Bend ISD, Fackeldey’s volunteers were able to outfit completely one male and one female senior. But her vision was so much more. The program encourages students to become accountable individuals.

As part of the Cinderella-Cinderfella Project, every senior is assigned a sponsor. They must write an essay and are chosen to  participate in the program. The sponsor helps the student remember appointments, mentors them and builds a relationship with them. Robert Wolter, director of the Wharton County Junior College, councils them on higher education and presents financial assistance options with applications for grants and student loans that can make their college dreams a reality. “Many of these students have endured numerous hardships in their short lives, and they may have decided long ago that they would never be able to afford a degree,” said Wolter. “I tell them that if they want it bad enough, they can achieve it! I also remind them of other options like the military and technical training for more hands-on careers that pay well and are in high demand.”

Fackeldey and her volunteers work 40 to 60 hours a week in preparation for the big day. For the girls, bridal shops, individuals and retail stores donate dresses, jewelry, shoes and bags to Miriam’s Closet, named after Fackeldey’s mother. For the guys, Al’s Formal Wear in Sugar Land donates the tuxedo rentals.

When prom day arrives, it proves to be magical for the seniors. This is the day Fackeldey enjoys the most. “Watching these students arrive with their parents the morning of the prom and going through the hundreds of dresses to pick from is so gratifying. Miriam’s closet is bustling with laughter, squeals of happiness and an overall level of euphoria. There is no better feeling.”

The boys are fitted for a tuxedo, and the girls select an appropriate dress, jewelry, shoes and bag. Professional hair and makeup stylists generously donate their time to help create perfection for the girls. The day is complete with flowers from Barbara Rosenberg, who volunteers her time to create the perfect corsage to match each gown.

Fackeldey and her family continue to encourage students to maintain their education after the prom with The Jacob Scholarship Fund at Wharton County Junior College. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and thanks to Fackeldey’s vision, all are beautiful.