HNS provides free prom dresses, suits for high school students
By Shelley Widhalm
For the second year in a row the clothing boutique at House of Neighborly Service becomes a one-day prom shop where the dresses are, you got it, free.
HNS had an extra-large donation this year and is giving each girl a long and a short dress to wear for prom and other evening outings, such as homecoming next school year.
“We have so much, so we’re able to do that,” said Alma Blanco, HNS clothing program manager. “We’re striving to give all high school students the opportunity to have their princess day and find the perfect dress.”
HNS offered the prom boutique at the HNS Life Center in Loveland one day last year and has it planned for at least four days this year, including two days in March and another two days in April. The boutique will be open 5-7:30 p.m. April 5 and April 12, after hour,s and will have new and gently-used dresses for the girls and slacks, sports coats, formalwear, and ties for the boys.
“There is no income criteria,” Blanco said, adding so far students have come from Loveland, Berthoud, Fort Collins, Windsor, Mead and Longmont. “They come in and have a fun day shopping, finding that perfect dress.”
During the first two days of the prom boutique this year HNS gave out 72 dresses to 36 girls, compared with 34 dresses to 34 girls last year. The Loveland Wedding Center donated 200 dresses that, with clearance purchases and additional community donations, provided enough for every girl to have two dresses. So far a total of 400 dresses have been donated, and any remaining dresses will be stored for next year’s prom.
For the boutique Blanco clears out the regular clothing HNS clients access as part of the nonprofit’s services and sets up displays of the dresses and has a glass case for jewelry, accessories and shoes.
“It completely transforms it into a boutique for prom,” Blanco said, adding she hasn’t yet come up with a name for it.
Blanco also turns on some music, and there are cupcakes and beverages to enjoy.
“I personally always wanted to do something like that,” Blanco said, explaining as a single mother she couldn’t afford to send her daughters to prom, so she started collecting prom dresses to offer the opportunity for other girls. “I finally got enough where I was able to do it.”
Last year a few girls asked for prices when they tried on the dresses and were surprised to learn they were free, Blanco said. The girls were asked to fill out comment cards and a few said if they hadn’t come to the prom boutique they wouldn’t have been able to go to prom. When asked if the boutique should continue, they said yes.
“That’s really encouraging for me,” Blanco said. “I need that encouragement, too, to know it’s helping the girls. They don’t feel like it’s a handout. It’s a shopping day.”
Following prom girls are welcome to donate their dresses at HNS in Loveland and Berthoud. The Berthoud Life Center is open 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s their moment, a time when they get to be a princess for a day or evening,” said Jinger Tomassi, manager of the Berthoud Life Center. “They don’t need to RSVP or sign up. They just can show up.”
Berthoud Restore, 157 Mountain Ave., has a rack of fancy dresses but does not do anything special around prom, though some of the dresses are prom dresses or would work for prom, said Sharon Derstine, manager of the thrift store. Most of the dresses are $8 to $15, or higher if they are new with their tags.
“We keep fancy dresses out year round on the rack. It’s not special for prom,” Derstine said, adding what’s on the rack “varies every day because we sell every day. We don’t advertise for it, but we are an option if somebody needs a less expensive dress.” Vanya Marie, “an eclectic closet,” 521 A N. Fourth St., also offers dresses that would work for prom.
“I’m not really doing any prom dresses per se. I just have some affordable short dresses that can work,” said Vanya Marie Lamperes, store owner.
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