Created in 1983, the PACE center for girls “provides a non-residential delinquency prevention program in 18 locations statewide” for girls aged 12-19. The girls who enter the PACE program are “identified as dependent, truant, runaway, ungovernable, delinquent, or in need of academic skills.” The program continues to monitor each girl’s “educational and personal development” for three years upon completion of the program.
The theme of the afternoon was “Prom Magic” and girls from the PACE program arrived in style, courtesy of limousines donated by Ambassador Limousine, and wearing prom gowns donated by the Beth Dillinger foundation. Six girls from the PACE program got to strut the catwalk, emceed by Sheriff Jim Coats’s wife, Cat. In order to model for the event, the PACE girls put their best foot forward.
The Beth Dillinger Foundation was started by Kay Dillinger, wife of Public Defender Bob Dillinger, and named after their late daughter, Beth. The foundation provides three different means of support. It gives “support and education to children and young women in need” through the Beth Dillinger Scholarship Fund - a scholarship for PACE students, Beth’s Closet, which provides clothing, shoes and accessories to PACE students, and The Hope Chest. Located in the Public Defender’s Office, it supplies basic necessities, like clothes, shoes, pajamas, personal hygiene items, bedding and books to abused, neglected or abandoned children, many of whom are taken from their homes without their personal possessions, with only the clothes on their backs.
Beth Closet started out small, but quickly expanded, now offering clothes ranging from casual wear, to business suits, to prom gowns. “They turned a hope chest into a fashion boutique,” said one attendee. Those benefitted by Beth’s Closet are given unlimited clothes and supplies, and girls who had nothing have gone in and left with three full bags of clothes. “They’re not asking for a hand-out, they’re asking for a hand-up,” said Dick Crippin, one of the speakers that afternoon.
At the luncheon, Brittany Jahn received the Beth Dillinger Scholarship. She was once struggling in school, and is now going to PTEC to study to be a nurse. She was in the PACE program for 2 ½ years. Clothes for the programs have been donated by Macy’s at Tyrone Square in St. Petersburg, and survival kits have been donated by girl scout troops. The Spirit of Hope Award was given to Macy’s, to which the store manager stated, “We’re grateful to do it.”
Proceeds from the luncheon benefited the Beth Dillinger Foundation, Beth’s Closet at PACE Center for Girls and The Hope Chest.
To learn more about these programs, visit bethscloset.com and pacecenter.org