By Ciara Dennehy & Joshua Blake
The Long Island Volunteer Center, Nassau Community College and over 300 volunteers are holding their 24th prom dress fundraiser for financially strapped teenagers.
The fundraiser runs from Feb. 28 to March 25, and ends with a Prom Boutique event in April. To date, the event has helped over 20,000 women.
“These young women have worked so hard to reach the success they’ve gotten to,” Linda Marshall, Co-Chair of the Long Island Volunteer Center, said. “If they choose not to go to prom that’s their choice. It’s one thing to choose not to go, but it’s another thing when they can’t go.”
The Prom Boutique event in 1995 helped 35 women. Last year’s Prom Boutique helped over 3,500. The goal is to help more women every year.
Senior prom is one of the most magical nights of a young girl’s life, but also one of the most expensive, with the average cost of the entire event being over $700. The LIVC and NCCC work together in the collection, distribution and donation of gently used dresses, shoes, handbags and accessories.
During the donation period there’s 21 drop off locations set up throughout Nassau and Suffolk where people can bring their items, which are stored until the day of the Prom Boutique. Marshall estimates that at least 700 dresses have been donated so far, on track to hopefully exceed, if not match, the number of women helped in 2017.
“No one ever just brings one dress, it is usually a few,” Rachel Song, a volunteer and the owner of ReCreateU, one of the 21 donation locations said. “I had a woman come in, she has seven daughters, I think she brought in about 30 dresses alone, some still even had tags.”
Attendees of the Prom Boutique event are prescreened by social workers and volunteers. Song explained that the volunteers and social workers involved must review income and family status to make sure they are really the ones that need help and at the event. Volunteers from Nassau’s fashion program are there to help with alterations and tailoring if needed.
“Our attitude is why should they [the dress recipients] be treated different than anyone else?” Marshall said.
When it comes time to choose their dress in early April, the Student Activities Center at NCCC is set up with racks of dresses, tables of shoes, shawls, purses, everything necessary to go to prom.
If girls can’t make the Prom Boutique they can fill out a form online to pick a dress out. There are buses that take them to the event.
“Prom is so important for young girls to experience because it’s something every girl dreams about,” Kaylee Boegel, an attendee of last year’s prom, said.
“What to wear, who’s going to ask her. It’s just a milestone in high school that everyone tells you will be the best night of your life,” Boegel said. “Everyone should be able to experience that, that one night to look and feel your best.”