The Butterfly Dress Project, a nonprofit that offers free formal wear to families in need, has awarded Kelly Powers, a 5th-grade teacher at MacArthur Elementary School, the Best Teacher in the Community award. Powers was nominated, and subsequently selected, for the award by community members who voted through the organization’s facebook page, according to Kandi Kiolbasa, founder and CEO of the Butterfly Dress Project.

Butterfly Dress Project Award

Officials from the Butterfly Dress Project present Kelly Powers, a teacher at MacArthur Elementary, with a gift bag for winning the Best Teacher in the Community Award. (from left to right) MacArthur Teacher Kelly Powers, Butterfly Dress Project Founder and CEO Kandi Kiolbasa, Butterfly Dress Project Model Tatiana Larrea and Butterfly Dress Project Board Member Lynn Derksen.

“Almost everyone has at least one teacher who inspired them and helped change their life. I started this award to recognize teachers like that, right here in our community,” Kiolbasa said. “The response from the community was unanimous. Even after the nomination period ended, I was still receiving nomination messages and voicemails about Kelly Powers.”

A total of 52 teachers from throughout the region were nominated for the award. Nominations were open to the community from July to Aug. 2017 through the Butterfly Dress Project’s facebook page.

“Kelly is an educator who inspires her students to do their very best, every day,” said MacArthur Principal Yuri Castillo. “As part of our parent engagement team and school leadership team, she plays a major role in helping to make MacArthur an outstanding school for our students, parents and staff.”

As part of the recognition, the top 35 teachers each received a gift bag with prizes and school supplies and the remaining 17 teachers received a giftcard, Kiolbasa said. All of the nominees will also be honored at a banquet that Kiolbasa mentioned is tentatively set to take place in November.

“We initially planned to recognize the teachers at our back to school event on the plaza, but the 60 mile-per-hour winds ended up cutting the event short,” Kiolbasa said. “Since the awards program was so well received, I’m planning on making this an annual event.”

The Butterfly Dress project was founded by Kiolbasa in 2015 after the founder of the Cinderella Project — which for many years provided free prom dresses for Las Cruces girls who could not afford them — moved away from Las Cruces and the Cinderella Project ended.

“Our program offers free formal wear for women, men and children. We also partner with local businesses and organizations to offer free services like hair styling, makeup and nail design,” Kiolbasa said. “All of the products and services we offer are donated and there are no income requirements — there just has to be a need.”

Although there are no income requirements for the program, formal wear recipients are asked to return the items after an event has ended, pass the items on to someone in need, or simply to keep them for the memories, Kiolbasa explained. “We ask that the items not be resold, so they can continue to help support the community. I love knowing that our program can help change lives.”

According to Kiolbasa, the program served an estimated 1,700 people last year and currently has a stock of more than 3,500 formal wear items. For more information about the Butterfly Dress Project, visit www.butterflydressproject.org.

For more information, contact LCPS Communications Coordinator Paul Dahlgren, pdahlgren@lcps.net, (575) 527-5808.