Helping make prom dreams come true

Brethren High School students, left to right, Cheyenne Luzier, Lindsey Karash and Kylee Fleming check out one of the racks. (Dave Yarnell/News Advocate)

Prom season in Manistee started Saturday.

Actually, the first prom is a number of weeks away, but a group of volunteers opened their annual Prom Boutique that for the past three years has been providing free dresses to young Manistee County women.

“We have 500 dresses this year and hope to help over 100 girls find the dress they need,” said program leader Adelle Falan. “Over 45 girls found their dresses in just the first hour.”

She said she had the Prom Boutique idea for some time and then brought it up at a poverty summit meeting sponsored by United Way of Manistee County and the Manistee County Human Services Collaborative Board.

“I always had the idea, and then it just sort of happened,” she said. “It’s been made possible through the efforts of 18 wonderful women who share the vision.”

The program is simple. Through the year anyone can donate prom dresses to the boutique at any Manistee County high school office. The dresses are stored in space donated by Guardian Angels Church and then on a Saturday in March the volunteers set up the high-class boutique in the all purpose room at the Manistee ISD.

“We are very grateful to have this space,” Fallan said of the ISD. “It took us several days to set it up. But we try to make it a very special day by setting it up like a really lovely boutique for the girls.”

In addition to the dresses, there were also some shoes and jewelry available — all at no cost. Also, there was a seamstress on duty and a buffet table contained refreshments donated by local businesses.

It requires between $500 and $1,000 each year to pull off the event, most of which goes to get the dresses cleaned. Falan said the cost would be much higher if the cleaners didn’t give the program deeply reduced prices.

“We had no money the first year, last year receive a grant from the Manistee County Community Foundation, and for this year a women’s resource group disbanded and we received $1,000 from it,” Falan said.

“It’s a big help, and it’s fun,” said one of the shoppers, Brethren High School junior Lindsey Karash. “There are a lot of unique and interesting dresses. A great selection, and everyone is so nice.”

Falon said the program is well-publicized in the schools so all the girls know that the price of a dress doesn’t have to keep them from attending their prom. Juniors and seniors all get a special invitation to the event.

Many local businesses donate prizes so the girls can win prizes for things like nails, hair, corsages and photography. Also, each high school contributes two tickets to their prom that students can win.

She added that every year there are a lot of heartwarming stories.

“For some, it’s the most beautiful dress they’ve ever had,” Falan said

She said the group is thankful for the space donated by Guardian Angels to store the dresses and to the ISD for hosting the boutique, but the long term goal is to find a permanent location to both store and display dresses so students could take advantage of the program at other times of the year, such as for homecomings and winter carnivals.

“We’re committed to keeping the program going as long as we continue to receive dresses,” Falan said. “It’s a lot of work, but we have fun. It’s so much fun to make a girl feel special and beautiful.”

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Posted by Dave Yarnell

Dave was formerly the News Advocate features writer and retired in November 2013.

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