By Dominique Goyette-Connerty
Let’s face it, ladies, you haven’t touched your prom dress since the night of—and you never will again.
You probably spent hundreds of dollars on the dress you just HAD to have to make it the most magical night ever—and it will sit in your mom’s house until you’re about 38 and stumble upon it, only to question why you ever wore such a hideous thing…Ruffles, really? (isn’t that how it usually goes?)
Fitchburg State University’s Volunteer Center, in conjunction with Sigma Sigma Sigma, is holding its third annual dress drive to collect formal dresses for Anton’s Cleaners Belle of the Ball prom dress drive. This organization provides high school students who otherwise may not be able to afford it with dresses, shoes, jewelry, and accessories. The collection has already started, but you still have until March 20th to drop off your used formal dress to the Volunteer Center in Hammond G16.
Now a senior and the Volunteer Center Manager, Seferine Baez, first started up this collection at FSU in her sophomore year as her individual project with the Volunteer Center. After learning of the more nationally-organized prom dress collection, Cinderella Project, Baez came across the more locally-rooted Belle of the Ball collection. Conveniently, Anton’s has many locations in Massachusetts and even in New Hampshire.
The process is quite simple. The FSU Volunteer Center (and any other collection partner for that matter) drops off the donated dresses at any Anton’s location, and they take it all from there! They dry clean the donated dresses, then put on their Boutique Day in Boston at the beginning of April where the eligible girls in need are matched up with glamorous dresses, shoes, bags, jewelry, and accessories.
“It takes more than you think it does,” noted Baez, who originally would have loved to see the Volunteer Center host their own ‘Boutique Day,’ though conceded that their small staff wasn’t able to take on a project of that magnitude. To find a space to hold the ‘shopping day,’ ensure eligibility of applicants, set up dressing rooms, organize enough volunteers, get all the dresses cleaned, and still manage to provide shoes, accessories, and all things to complete the look, was something the FSU Volunteer Center was not prepared to take on by themselves.
“We’re proud to be a part of it,” Baez said, “we just don’t have the capability to do it on our own with a small staff.”
Anton’s, with the help of their sponsors, Jordan’s Furniture and Enterprise Bank, has managed to pull off this fabulous event every year seamlessly. This year will mark their 13th annual Belle of the Ball Boutique Day. “They’re wonderful to work with,” Baez said.
The first year FSU volunteered to be a collection partner with Anton’s, they managed to collect about 30 dresses. The second year, they received help from Tri-Sigma with hosting and promoting the drive; the number doubled to almost 60 donated dresses, though Baez argues, “It’s not about the numbers, we’re glad to help in any way we can.”
Looking forward, staff at the Volunteer Center wants to volunteer on the actual Boutique Day itself. It’s something they have considered in the past, though the application process to register for the event is quite lengthy and tedious. Baez told me that it’s something they’ll have to look into again this year.
When asked why this drive is important, Baez reflected on her own prom experience her senior year of high school. Though other schools might have held junior/senior proms, homecomings, spring flings, and semi-formal dances, “for [my] school it was just a senior prom, so it was such an important part of senior year,” she explained. “I think it’s really special,” and, “it’s really important to give back and to give them that moment” Baez added. “Hopefully this is something we can continue to do in the future and pass on as one of our staples.”
For more information on Anton’s Belle of the Ball prom dress drive, visit http://antons.com/belle/
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