Even though she never went to her own prom, Theresa Owens understands the importance of finding the perfect dress.
That is why Ms. Owens, the head of Teen Services at the Hampton Bays Public Library, and Jackie Dunn, a librarian, have been busy organizing a prom dress drive for seniors attending Hampton Bays High School. So far, they have collected more than 100 new and gently used dresses and, starting on May 1, girls could start trying them on.
“We have three garment racks, and one of them collapsed from the weight of all the dresses!” said Ms. Dunn, 34, who lives in Southampton. “We get more every day.”
Considering that it is their first such drive, the ladies said they have been surprised with the quality of the donations, noting that some still have tags on them and most have been dry-cleaned before showing up at the library. They have a variety of colors and sizes, ranging from 0 to 24.
Other items being donated include shoes and purses, many of which match the dresses. Gently used donations can be brought or mailed to the library, which is located at 52 Ponquogue Avenue. The Teen Services Department will continue collecting the dresses and accessories through Friday, June 14.
Ms. Owens, who is 35 and lives in Hampton Bays, said they have not yet mailed their latest newsletter, which reaches about 10,000 people, to alert them about the drive.
She skipped her own senior prom voluntarily, but she points out that many girls miss out on going simply because they cannot afford a dress, which can often cost several hundred dollars. She said she thought about these young women while contemplating what kind of fundraiser to hold at her place of employment.
After contacting Hampton Bays High School, which is holding its senior prom on Thursday, June 20, at The Vineyards in Aquebogue, Ms. Owens was directed to Tara Dietz, the junior class advisor. Ms. Dietz immediately alerted her co-workers about the dress drive and made sure to mention it in the district’s next newsletter.
“Hopefully, the girls take advantage of it,” she said. “It’s a great program.”
Even though she learned about the drive too late to help the school’s juniors, Ms. Dietz said the plan is to offer the dresses to both juniors and seniors next year.
Schools Superintendent Lars Clemensen loves the idea, noting that it is the first prom dress drive during his tenure at the district.
“I think it’s such a neat idea … when the library approached us with the idea, how could we say no?” Mr. Clemensen said. “It gives our kids an opportunity to look great on prom night, and I hope that kind gesture of the library doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Many of the donated dresses have come from unexpected sources. They include the Riverhead Free Library, St. John’s Outreach in Center Moriches and West Babylon High School. West Babylon donated 50 dresses that were left over from a similar dress drive held earlier this year, according to Ms. Owens.
The outpouring of support has surprised Teen Services employees at the library, who plan on making the dress drive an annual event.
“We’re overwhelmed with the generosity of the community and our staff members, and people as far as Wantagh have reached out to us,” Ms. Owens said. “We didn’t know how big it was going to be.”
Those who would like to donate new or gently used prom dresses and accessories should call Ms. Owens at (631) 728-6241, ext 120.