Local residents can make a teen’s dream come true by taking part in “Prom-Aide,” a grassroots effort to provide new or slightly used prom attire for local high school students.
“Most moms would give their right arm to make sure their daughters were outfitted like Cinderella at the ball when prom time rolls around,” says Fran Bratcher, founder of Family to Family, co-sponsor of Prom-Aide. “But hard economic times can make it tough for some to buy those dresses and tuxes.”
She says some families sacrifice other necessary expenses or put added stress on family finances to allow their children to attend prom, while others cannot afford prom at all.
So far, Hubbards Limited has donated five tuxedo rentals and Donata’s Alterations has offered assistance to help jumpstart the collection effort.
But items don’t necessarily need to be brand-new. Residents can donate clean, slightly used formal wear of any size at the Marco Eagle office, 579 Elkcam Circle from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., weekdays, or the Kids Crisis Closet location, 3435 Enterprise Ave., #67, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday or 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday.
Sandy Waite, of Platinum Total Fabricare has also volunteered to collect prom attire and clean gowns if needed. The business has two locations, 3633 Tamiami Trail North in Naples and 27241 Bay Landing Drive, Ste 11 in Bonita Springs. Both stores are open from 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturdays.
“Kids shouldn’t have to choose between a prom dress or helping pay the rent, but for too many, that is their reality,” says Collier Citizen reporter Brenda Hawkins, Prom-Aide coordinator.
“We know that there are many girls who would gladly donate nice gowns from past formals if they had an easy way to do so.”
The trickle-down effect of the current economy is apparent in schools in a variety of ways.
“There’s been an unbelievable increase in need,” says guidance counselor Linda Sharp, of Gulf Coast High. “We always do a lot of academic counseling, but now we’re dealing with a lot more social work issues, regarding home life. Conflict at home over finances translates to stress in the students. There are a lot of students who’ve lost their jobs or who are homeless, living in shelters or having to move, because of changing family dynamics.”
Sharp says 99 percent of GCHS graduating seniors planning to attend college this year will go to a Florida school; only two students will be going out of state.
“They’re staying close to home to help keep costs down,” she said.
Bob Antinarella, a counselor at Lely High, noted that more students than ever before are applying for SAT, ACT and college application fee waivers and pointed to an increase in students receiving free or reduced lunches as a sign of the times.
“There’s a fairly high level of need among many of our kids,” he said. “More and more, I’m seeing kids working full-time to help pay the rent, rather than to get money to spend on their personal expenses. I think this Prom-Aide promotion is a great idea.”
Guidance counselors at public and private high schools will be able to refer students to the Kid’s Crisis Closet to try on donated prom dresses, tuxes and accessories. Other students will be referred by Family Preservation Services.
Juniors and seniors interested in receiving a prom dress or tuxedo due to financial need or personal crisis situation or other extenuating circumstances should contact their high school guidance counselor for a referral.