Think back to your own prom night. The feeling of getting dressed up and celebrating your senior year of high school with all your best friends was a pretty special, once-in-a-lifetime event.
Now, picture what it feels like to desperately want to attend but to be too short on money to buy a dress or a suit.
That's what Deputy Superintendent Lisa Holmes of the Boston Police Department saw through her work in the Grove Hill community center and the Burke High School in Dorchester about five years ago. And that's why she decided to start a prom dress drive.
"It came from working with young girls and hearing girls talking about how expensive it is and how many girls didn't go to their proms because they couldn’t afford the experience, the dresses, the hair, the whole thing," Holmes said.
Knowing that she and her friends would go to formal events, wear a dress once and leave it hanging in her closet, Holmes thought about asking her own friends to donate their gently used dresses so that girls in need could attend their prom.
And that's when it started to grow.
"The response from the girls was overwhelming," she said.
Holmes has partnered with another community group that also holds a yearly prom dress drive, United Sisters of Color. Last year, 300 dresses were collected.
New to the drive this year is the donation of suits for young men, too.
"We had an overwhelming response from young men wanting to be included too," Holmes said.
Once the dresses and suits are collected, Holmes reaches out to Boston Public Schools, Boston Center for Youth and Families and other community organization to ask them to identify which students might be in need. Those students are then invited to come pick out a dress.
"We spend a lot of time picking out the dress, and when they turn around and see themselves in the mirror, that look is priceless," she said. "They're like, 'Oh my god, that's me?' because they’ve never seen themselves that way and no one has taken the time to let them see themselves that way."
Holmes said that for her, that's what means the most to her about the project.
"It's the one night a girl gets to be a princess, and feel beautiful and special," she said. "So for me, it's just that any young person who wants to should be able to experience it and finances shouldn't be the reason teens can't go through this rite of passage."
The organizations are accepting new or gently used, dry cleaned, age appropriate, trendy prom dresses, gowns, suits, tuxedos, shits, ties, shoes and accessories.
Items can be dropped off during the following public donation days:
- Feb. 23 from 2-4 p.m. at Grove Hall Library (41 Geneva Ave., Dorchester)
- March 23 from 2-4 p.m. at Mattapan Library (1350 Blue Hill Ave., Mattapan)
Pickup can also be arranged. Call 888-512-3120.