Drive for dresses makes prom night dreams possible

What is the value of a prom dress for a high school girl? The expensive dress might only get worn once, but the memories of that celebrated evening will last a lifetime. But for some high school girls, spending hundreds of dollars on a new dress is not an option and not worth sacrificing other necessities. Fortunately, there is a resource for girls who want to attend the prom without being left barefoot and broke the next day

For the second year, Anton's Cleaners is offering the Belle of the Ball, a drive to collect previously owned prom dresses, to help high school girls attend their prom in the dress of their dreams, that they would otherwise not have the means to afford.

This year's drive was launched February 1 and will continue until April 15. Anton's is asking for slightly worn dresses of any color, style, and size from the last three or four years so that the dress might still be trendy to be brought to any of their locations throughout Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. Anton's will dry clean the dresses and then bring them to Simmons College, where on Saturday, April 29, girls will have the opportunity to pick out their prom dresses.

"No girl should be left without a dress on her prom night," says Trina Wilkenson, Senior Youth Worker at the Hyde Park Community Center. Wilkenson has already gathered a group of girls interested in the program. Last year, Wilkenson brought a busload of girls to Simmons College to "shop" for a free dress.

In order to qualify for the Belle of the Ball, girls must be in either their junior or senior year of high school and referred by a guidance counselor, teacher, or social service agency. Releases promoting the event were sent to women's organizations, community centers, gyms, and high schools in lower income neighborhoods as far north of Boston as Lynn and Lowell. Promotions were also sent to private high schools and affluent communities in efforts of reaching out to young women to donate their previously worn dresses

"This is a really great opportunity for our girls, many of whose primary concern doesn't include how to afford a dress for prom night. These are girls who have other necessary financial obligations," says Alexis St. James, a guidance counselor at the Greater Egleston Community High School in Roxbury.

Volunteer personal shoppers and fashion consultants under the direction of local fashion expert Mary Lou Andre will be at the event, offering tips on style and helping participants find the perfect dress. Also, hair and make-up specialists from Dellaria Salons will be in attendance advising girls on beauty tips.

In addition to trying on dresses and getting their hair done by the pros, participants will also take part in raffles for free giveaways like hair clips, skin care products, and gift certificates to Dellaria Salons

Anton's launched Belle of the Ball for the first time last year.

"I never realized before how important prom night is for high school girls. It's very heartwarming knowing that we are taking part in making a young woman's dream of attending the prom come true," says Arthur Anton Jr. At last year's drive, over 1600 dresses were donated and over one hundred young women attended the event.

Anton's launched Belle of the Ball along with its promotional partner, Fox25, and its corporate partner, NSTAR. To donate a dress, visit antons.com to find the nearest location to you

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