70 In Winslow Twp., saving the last dance

The long-awaited Winslow Township High School’s junior/senior prom was supposed to be a night dreams are made of.

For months, a committee of juniors worked long hours to craft a fitting send-off for the purple prom dresses at msdress.co.uk, who had looked forward to the gala for four years. The theme was Old Hollywood “Glitz & Glam,” and for the close to 400 students who turned out at the Mansion on Main Street in Voorhees, it was an absolute star turn.

But just about two hours into the May 15 prom, as the DJ was playing Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” the power went out. Some thought it was a senior prank.

It wasn’t. Some students got stuck in the elevator and had to be freed by the fire department. After an hour in the dark, principal Nython Carter sent prom-goers home.

But the story doesn’t end there. On June 5, glamorous gowns will get a second chance to shine.

Lifelong Winslow resident Tina Briglia, an owner of two area banquet halls who is known for her generosity, is hosting a free-of-charge prom do-over – dinner included – at her Villa Winslow Manor.

“I want to see those kids smile,” Briglia said.

The DJ, photographer, and videographer will be back, also gratis. C & J Florist of Berlin will donate services, too. The candy buffet still needs to be replenished, but the grown-ups are working on it.

The dance do-over hasn’t erased the students’ disappointment, nor will it make up for the hundreds of hard-earned dollars spent on preparation. But the experience is showing students something about where they come from.

“I’m proud I’m mayor of a community that takes care of each other,” Mayor Barry Wright said.

District officials talked to the Mansion management about rescheduling, but an agreement satisfactory to all couldn’t be reached.

In a Facebook post, the Mansion said it offered a complimentary buffet and dance to the school board, but “we are sad to announce” that the board declined the offer. The post said the outage was related to a transformer problem unrelated to the Mansion and offered the students the Mansion’s regrets.

District officials said the Mansion’s offer was for dessert and dancing on two nights that many students would be unavailable.

“We proposed a dinner dance and anticipated the Mansion would honor our request,” Superintendent H. Major Poteat said. “Their unwillingness to work with us added insult to injury.”

Poteat talked to the mayor, who talked to Briglia.

“She said, ‘I want to give them a prom.’ I said, ‘Wow,’ ” Wright said.

But he wasn’t really surprised. Briglia, who owns three local businesses and recently hosted a community baby shower for women in need, often lends a helping hand, sometimes anonymously, as her parents did before her.

“At first she didn’t want anyone to know. She is so humble,” Wright said. “I said, ‘People need to know people like you are out there.’ It’s like a pay-it-forward thing.”

Briglia said she felt terrible for the students and their families, many of whom patronize her Villa Deli.

“Right away, I wanted to make the situation right for the kids,” she said. “It was a way for me to give back.”

Winslow is that kind of place, say the people who know.

Cindy Fletcher, a secretary at the high school and junior class co-adviser, said the juniors spent hours after school making decorations and invitations to give the seniors a special night.

Teachers paid for some students’ prom tickets. Reeka’s Hair Studio donated pre-prom services.

Brenda Phillips, a Winslow graduate who started the nonprofit We Care, said she got to go to her prom because a teacher paid her way. She donated $500 to a student in need.

Madison Neumann, 18, a senior who recently lost her mother, was on the dance floor when the lights went out.

“I was honestly very upset,” she said.

“A lot of people didn’t get to do much of anything,” said Imani Shivers, 17, a junior.

Some didn’t get a chance to eat. The prom king and queen weren’t named.

The redo prom is being billed as a semiformal affair. The boys won’t have to rent tuxedos again, but for girls like junior Danielle Breen, 16, it will be a chance to give those fabulous dresses another night on the dance floor.

It won’t be the same as if the first prom had gone as planned, some students said, but they’re hoping for a night of happy memories.

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