Shea’s Performing Arts Center again donating space for distribution
The 14th annual Colvin Cleaners “Gowns for Prom” program, presented by The Allstate Foundation and supported by Reeds Jenss, Shea’s Performing Arts Center and Townsquare Media, officially began Tuesday. The family-owned dry-cleaning company is anticipating a record campaign as it is communicating with nearly 90 high schools in Western New York, supporting students who are unable to afford a gown for this year’s prom.
These young ladies are encouraged to visit the website www.gownsforprom.com and click “Get A Gown” to schedule a time to select their gown on the Shea’s Performing Arts Center stage. Dresses will be available from 3-8 p.m. April 16-18. Schools are encouraged to transport students in groups so they are, together, selecting gowns and avoiding similar colors and styles.
“Gowns for Prom” seeks donations of new or gently used formal gowns, shoes and purses of any size. There is a big need for plus-sized gowns, sizes 16 and up.
The donated gowns are sorted by size and transported to Shea’s for selection. For each of the three days, Colvin Cleaners will have racks of thousands of new and gently used donated gowns arranged on stage by size. The high school students select a gown and are then fitted upstairs in the stars’ dressing rooms by professional seamstresses. The selected gown is then altered, dry cleaned, packaged and delivered for free by Colvin Cleaners to the young ladies’ school in time for this year’s prom.
“We are extremely fortunate to have Shea’s, a world-class historic theater, donating its stage and three floors of dressing rooms for three consecutive nights for 14 straight years,” said Paul A. Billoni, president/CEO of Colvin Cleaners, who founded the program with his wife, Cyndee. “Working with Michael Murphy (Shea’s CEO) and his outstanding staff has been exceptional. The opportunity they are giving these young ladies to experience what it is like to be a star just adds to the excitement of ‘Gowns for Prom.’ Based on the number of schools and students who have already contacted us about dates for the distribution, we anticipate a very busy campaign.”
Murphy said, “Shea’s is thrilled to continue our partnership with Colvin Cleaners and this wonderful event that benefits so many in the community. Each year it is wonderful to see the smiling faces on those who are able to come and find the perfect gown for their special night.”
Donations of new or gently used gowns, shoes or purses can be made at 40 Allstate Insurance Agencies throughout Western New York; at Colvin Cleaners, 2375 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; the six Department of Motor Vehicle offices throughout Erie County; and the Reeds Jenss and Native Pride locations. For a complete listing of all donation sites and a map, visit www.colvincleaners.com or www.gownsforprom.com.
The Allstate Foundation has been the presenting sponsor for the Colvin Cleaners “Gowns for Prom” and “Coats 4 Kids” programs for several years. Staffers collect coats and gowns year-round in their offices.
Doug Eberle, Allstate territorial sales leader in upstate New York, said, “Our Allstate agency owners and financial specialists in WNY see firsthand the opportunities and challenges facing the communities they serve. Giving back is core to who we are, which is why we are proud to volunteer, donate and raise funds alongside Colvin Cleaners to improve the lives of our local community members.”
In addition to gowns and accessories on the Shea’s stage, Marlena Gagner and friends set up tables with assorted jewelry they created throughout the year to accent the young ladies’ selections.
“I know first-hand about needing a gown for the prom. We did not have this program when I was in school, so my mother made my gown from draperies she purchased at the Goodwill. This is my small way of giving back,” Gagner said.
It was also announced Clay Moden, host of the WYRK morning show, and Yasmin Young, host of the WBLK’s 2-6 p.m. weekday show, will be the program’s spokespersons for the “Gowns for Prom” radio partnership with Townsquare Media.
“As a young lady who never attended a prom, because my family could not afford it, I know first-hand how disappointing it is to miss out on this experience and the memories that come from it,” explained Young, who was born in Tucson, Arizona. “That is why I am so excited that ‘Power’ 93.7 WBLK and Townsquare Media are partnering with Colvin Cleaners, Reeds Jenss and The Allstate Foundation to make the 14th annual ‘Gowns for Prom’ even more successful, and ultimately ensure more young ladies in Western New York get to attend their prom this year!”
Moden, who grew up in East Aurora, added, “I am so proud to partner with Colvin Cleaners for this amazing campaign! Nothing feels better than giving back, and there are few moments in high school bigger than the prom! Knowing these gowns will help make young ladies in our community feel like princesses at their prom is one of the greatest things we have been a part of.”
Billoni said, “It brings tears to our eyes to see these young ladies on the stage at Shea’s find that perfect gown and then to see them after it has been professionally altered by one of the many seamstresses who donate their time to ‘Gowns for Prom’ every year. We are so grateful to those who have donated gowns over the years, because the smiles on the faces of these high school students, who otherwise could not have afforded a prom gown, is priceless.”
Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns said, “My goal as Erie County clerk is to make our auto bureaus more community-oriented and to offer services other than the standard DMV transactions. I’m happy to help Colvin Cleaners with its ‘Gowns for Prom’ program by setting up donation centers at the six Erie County auto bureaus. As a dad whose daughter attended her high school prom, I understand the excitement of being able to find the perfect dress for the occasion. I also understand the significant cost of attending the prom and the stress it puts on families.”
During the press conference, Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joe Emminger announced April will be “Gowns for Prom” month in the town. Also presenting proclamations were Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown, Kenmore Mayor Pat Mang, Erie County legislators Peter Savage and Kevin Hardwick and County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
Florence Dollard, a teacher at the Western New York Maritime Charter, and student Paloma Rodriguez, a senior, brought tears to everyone’s eyes when they explained the first-hand need for these gowns. They noted that, if this program did not exist, these young ladies would not be able to attend the prom. Rodriguez used the program last year to find the perfect gown for the school’s annual Military Ball.
Rachel Kropczynski, owner of Monroe’s Boutique, and Nancy Monroe were introduced and discussed a donation of 69 new gowns they presented to Colvin Cleaners for this year’s program.
Volunteers ages 18 and older (unless accompanied by a parent) are needed at Shea’s in the distribution and restocking of gowns and monitoring of dressing rooms. Seamstresses and tailors also are needed to assist at Shea’s with alterations of the gowns. For more information, visit www.gownsforprom.com.
“Gowns for Prom” is a 501(c)(3) under the Goodwill Industries of Western New York.