‘Dress Drive’ gives to most deserving
March 11, 2010
Attention ladies: Still have your high school prom dress buried in your closet? Or perhaps a bridesmaid’s dress collecting dust? It could be put to better use as a donation to Ever After Gowns, a Minnesota-based non-profit dedicated to providing young women with new and gently used formal gowns for their high school prom.
Donations of new and used formal wear for Ever After Gowns can be dropped off at the University Center in Heritage Hall the week following spring break. Items accepted for donation include dresses, shawls, handbags, shoes, unused cosmetics, jewelry and other accessories.
Candidates for receiving the dresses are pre-selected based on financial need by their high school guidance counselors, according to the Ever After Gowns Web site. Young women from the Twin Cities and nearby Wisconsin areas (including River Falls) are eligible.
There are other organizations that collect and sell used formal wear, but Ever After Gowns is different because they give their dresses away for free to deserving girls, said Jeanna Breeden, one of four University of Wisconsin-River Falls students organizing the “Dress Drive.”
Breeden, Megan McGivern, Amber Pechacek and Charissa Squire learned about Ever After Gowns through their nonprofit marketing class. As they learned more about it, McGivern said the group became attached to Ever After Gowns and decided to promote the organization as a class project.
Ever After Gowns was founded in 2004 by a group of friends who were looking for a service they could provide to the community that wasn’t there already. Maggie Harris, co-founder and president of Ever After Gowns, said she went through her closets and realized she had lots of dresses and wanted to put them to use in an eco-friendly way.
Collecting dresses, then giving them to young women in need, began as a service project but grew into a nonprofit organization because of a large response in terms of need and support from the community, said Harris. “We owe a lot to the generosity and commitment of our community.”
The number one challenge for the organization is financial organizational costs such as insurance for volunteers and storage, said Harris. Ever After Gowns is financially supported by corporate and personal donations. All staff and board members are un-paid volunteers who lead full lives and careers, said Harris, so time can also be a challenge.
As prom approaches, Ever After Gowns is preparing for their boutique event on April 17. The event is a part of the experience offered by the non-profit where eligible girls are assigned personal shoppers to aid them in picking a dress then are able receive make-up application, hair styling and beauty tips by beauty professionals and cosmetologists.
“We want them to feel special and pampered,” said Harris. “It’s not a handout. It’s an event.”
Currently, 700 girls are signed up for this year’s boutique. Ever After Gowns is in particular need of jewelry and full size dresses. In order for gowns to be a modern style, Harris said she encourages dresses for donation be five years old or less.
“A lot of people are excited and say they have a lot of dresses to bring in,” said Breeden, “and that gets us excited.” Approximately 120 dresses were collected last year at UWRF, said Breeden. This year she said she hopes to reach a goal of 150. So far, 27 dresses have been collected for Ever After Gowns, which collects approximately 2,500 total gowns yearly.
Some of the dresses have some very important memories attached to them and could be hard to let go, said Harris. McGivern, one of the students organizing the collection who’s own dress has been sitting in her closet for five years, encourages students who may be feeling sentimental about their dress to “take a picture and send it off.”
UWRF student, Kay-Lee Pearson, said she plans to donate at least two of her dresses and a pair of shoes.
“Prom was a good experience for me,” she said. “I don’t think any girl should not get to be a part of it because of money reasons.”
Breeden said others may think they are not doing something great because the event is “just prom,” but prom could be seen as a rite of passage.
“We’re not saving the world,” said Harris, “but we’re giving some sunshine.”
Once the dresses are collected, they will be sent to St. Croix Cleaners, a dry cleaning company that cleans and stores dresses for Ever After Gowns free of charge. Donations can also be made year round to any St. Croix Cleaners location including those in Hudson, Woodbury and White Bear Lake.
Collection times at the University Center are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 24, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 25 and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 26 in Heritage Hall. This is the second year that students from UWRF have worked with Ever After Gowns. Harris described the students as “enthusiastic, driven and hardworking.” “River Falls has produced the best results of any college I’ve worked with,” she said.
For more information and a full list of drop off locations, look for Ever After Gowns on Facebook or visit everaftergowns.org.