Prom has the potential to be a such a costly experience that some students shy away from it. However, thanks to area organizations, finding the perfect dress does not have to be expensive - in fact, it can be free.
Students from around the area have recently had the opportunity to pick up free prom dresses from Jamestown High School and Cassadaga Valley Central School, thanks to donations from the community.
Chautauqua Striders offered free prom dresses Thursday to students from Jamestown, Falconer, Frewsburg and Southwestern High Schools.
Girls and their mothers had the opportunity to look for prom dresses at Cassadaga Valley Central School, during the Key Club’s second annual Project Prom Dress on Saturday.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
"We know that it's tough for parents to go out and spend over $200 for dresses. Some of these dresses have tags on them still. Some of these are $400 dresses that have never been worn," said Lorraine Walker, mentoring coordinator for Chautauqua Striders.
At Cassadaga Valley Central School, the Key Club hosted its second annual Project Prom Dress on Saturday.
"Last year, a Key Club member, Kayla Franchina, went to look for prom dresses and realized how costly it was, so she was the organizer of Project Prom Dress," said Kathy Smith, Key Club adviser.
As a result of her realization, Kayla and the other members of Key Club were able to give out around 100 dresses last year to girls that needed them.
"They would be missing a major part of their life if they didn't have this opportunity. They don't want to wear something their sister wore, they want something of their own," said Linda Crossley, owner of Esquire Cleaners in Jamestown.
Ms. Crossley donated the services of her business to the girls looking for prom dresses at Jamestown High School. When girls picked out a dress, they had the option to have it dry cleaned by Esquire Cleaners - free of charge.
Additionally, students at Jamestown High School had the opportunity to win free tickets to prom when they stopped in to look at dresses.
Meanwhile, Cassadaga Valley offered giveaways as well.
"This year, I have a couple (giveaways), like $25 gift cards. And then, they can use that for their hair or their nails or however they want," Mrs. Smith said.
Between the two locations, more than 500 dresses were available for girls to choose from. Chautauqua Striders and the Cassadaga Valley Key Club each called upon members of the community for donations.
"We have about 225 prom dresses that have been donated by the community. The need is there. We have all of these beautiful dresses that have been sitting in our closets, so we put the word out there." Ms. Walker said.
Mrs. Smith also was thankful for donations.
"I think it's good that people in the community donate the dresses to let someone else use them. I think it's a wonderful opportunity," Mrs. Smith said.
Each location also offered accessories and shoes that were donated. And, the schools offered changing areas for girls to try the dresses on before making a final decision.
"The custodial staff (at Jamestown High School) has been fabulous. They have helped us and supported us so much. They put up full mirrors for the girls, so they can see head to toe what they look like in these dresses. The staff has been terrific," Ms. Walker said.
Cassadaga Valley had several volunteers that helped bring the event together. In addition to Mrs. Smith and another Key Club adviser, Karen Schraeder, members of the Kiwanis Club, Key Club and several parents helped with the event. For the dress giveaway at Jamestown High School, Ms. Walker said that many students in the Chautauqua Striders program helped.
Students from Jamestown, Falconer, Frewsburg and Southwestern that missed the Chautauqua Striders dress event have another opportunity this coming Thursday. Chautauqua Striders will bring the dresses back to Jamestown High School. They will be available in the old gym at the high school from 3 until 4:30 p.m.
Additionally, Mrs. Smith said that any students that were unable to attend the Project Prom Dress event at Cassadaga Valley can call either her or Mrs. Schraeder at Cassadaga Valley Central School at 962-5155. Students from any school can find their perfect prom dress free of charge.