It's the Talk of the Town
Prom Night in Independence, Virginia

In rural Independence, Va., promgoers traditionally have traveled 90 minutes away — to Winston- Salem, N.C., or Roanoke, Va. — to eat dinner at a nice restaurant. But for the last two years, students at Grayson County High School have been invited to dine at First Independence United Methodist Church, where parishioners go all out to provide a first-class candlelit dinner.

"If they're willing to commit to an alcohol- and drug-free weekend, then we're willing to commit to them," says organizer Debbie Edwards, as volunteers scurry to decorate tables with flowers and load serving trays with hors d'oeuvres.

Through donations from church members and a $500 grant from the school, the congregation springs for prime rib and shrimp cocktail, rents an outdoor dining tent, and provides limousine service between the church and school. Middle-schoolers from the congregation wear cummerbunds and serve as waiters.

Last year, the Wytheville District church hosted about 25. This year, 66 promgoers sipped sparkling white grape juice from crystal glasses and had their pictures made on the church lawn. Jake Cox, 18, was one of the appreciative attenders, who came because he heard high praise from last year's guests. "It's the talk of the town," he said.

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