Operation Prom Dress Collects Hope for Girls
Prom night has always been considered a milestone in many girls lives. While many girls anxiously anticipate the “big night,” others are unable to afford all the expenses. The costs of shoes, makeup, accessories, and the dress leave many girls in McDowell County, West Virginia unable to afford this memorable night.
Last year the students in Professor Julia Jasken’s Writing for Nonprofit Organizations course met with the Nonprofit Community Service Council in Westminster, where they were acquainted with Leslie Shaub. He runs an organization called the Appalachian Poverty Project. The primary focus of this organization is to collect appliances for the poverty areas of Appalachia.
During this discussion he spoke of another component to the organization: Operation Prom Dress. The purpose of this dress drive is to collect gently used formal dresses for girls who live in McDowell County, since many of the girls cannot afford to purchase their own prom dresses. These dresses will be an incentive for the girls to stay in school, where the drop out rate in this area is over 75 percent. Shaub expressed his need for more donations at the meeting, and students were immediately willing to help promote the drive at McDaniel.
In order to promote the event students in the course created a public relations campaign where they posted information on Facebook, hung fliers around campus, and participated in a public relations event outside Glar on March 10. During this event students wore formal attire including tuxedos and prom dresses to encourage students to participate in the dress drive.
During the course, Jasken created an assignment where every student in the class had to design a flier to promote the event. The class voted on which flier was the best and would be used for the campaign; Andrew Velnosky’s flier was chosen as the winner. “It’s definitely challenging but at the same time it’s really rewarding to get hands on experience,” said Velnosky.
Bobby Anderson, the Secretary in the English Department helped gather the prom dresses that were donated to the organization. She explained that with each prom dress donated, a story was attached. Senior Melissa Kelner, donated a black and white floral, knee length gown.
“I come from a very Jewish community and during middle school we had a bar/bat mitzvah almost every weekend and felt a lot of pressure to wear a new dress to each one despite having only been worn once,” said Kelner.
Kelner was lucky enough to have a cousin a year older than her pass down all her old formal dresses. “There was no way I could afford a new dress for each party, nor was my mother willing to spoil me for no good reason like that,” said Kelner.
When she went back to Massachusetts for spring break it turned out all of her dresses were still in the back of her closet and in good condition. “I was glad to be able to donate them to a great cause,” said Kelner.
In addition several faculty and staff members donated their dresses to the organization. A women working at the information desk in Decker had a friend hand make a two-piece dress for her to wear to her daughter’s wedding. Ironically, it was the same designer who had made the bridesmaid dresses for Anderson’s son’s wedding.
According to Anderson, 95 dresses were collected this year ranging in various styles and colors. Gently used shoes and jewelry were also collected. One student and her mother also sold makeup and donated their un-used samples to the organization.
“It’s great for students to see what a tangible effect that they can have on communities in need,” said Jasken.