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Colvin Cleaners 'Gowns for Prom' begins 15th campaign

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Tue, Mar 10th 2020 01:30 pm
The stage at Shea's Performing Arts filled with racks of gowns of all sizes and colors before each of the three distributions ensuring each student has a variety to select from regardless of the day they attend. (Photos courtesy of Colvin Cleaners)
The stage at Shea's Performing Arts filled with racks of gowns of all sizes and colors before each of the three distributions ensuring each student has a variety to select from regardless of the day they attend. (Photos courtesy of Colvin Cleaners)

Shea’s Performing Arts Center again donating space for distribution

The 15th annual Colvin Cleaners “Gowns for Prom” program, presented by The Allstate Foundation and supported by Reeds Jenss and Shea’s Performing Arts Center, has officially begun. Colvin Cleaners – the family-owned dry cleaners – collects gently used or new gowns for high school students who are unable to afford a gown for their prom.

Colvin Cleaners is anticipating another strong turnout as it communicates with nearly 90 high schools in Western New York. The students are encouraged to visit the website www.gownsforprom.com and click “Get A Gown” to learn more about the gown distribution process on the Shea’s Performing Arts Center stage (3-7 p.m. April 7-9). Schools are asked to communicate with students about “Gowns for Prom” and encourage them to carpool together.

The program seeks donations of new or gently used formal gowns, shoes and purses of any size all year-round, but especially in March. There is a huge need for plus-sized gowns, sizes 16 and up.

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 gowns arranged on stage by size. The high school students select a gown and then are fitted upstairs in the dressing rooms at Shea’s by volunteer seamstresses. Each selected gown is then altered, dry cleaned, packaged and delivered for free by Colvin Cleaners to the students’ school in time for their prom.

If delivery is not an option, the students can just take the gown they selected right from the event.

“We are so pleased to once again host ‘Gowns for Prom’ at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, a world-class historic theater donating its stage and three floors of dressing rooms for three consecutive nights for the 15th straight year,” said Paul A. Billoni, president and CEO of Colvin Cleaners, who founded the program with his wife, Cyndee. “Working with Michael Murphy (Shea’s president) and his outstanding staff has been exceptional. The opportunity they give to these students, to experience what it is like to be a star, just adds to the excitement of ‘Gowns for Prom.’ ”

“Part of our core mission at Shea’s Performing Arts Center is to help the community we serve. By providing our stage, crew, and resources to the ‘Gowns for Prom’ program, we know we are helping, in part, make students’ dreams come true,” Murphy said. “We are proud to partner with Colvin Cleaners and this incredible program. We are happy that ‘Gowns for Prom’ has a home on our stage.”

Donations of new or gently used gowns, shoes or purses can be made at 40 Allstate insurance agencies throughout Western New York; Colvin Cleaners, 2375 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; the six Department of Motor Vehicle offices throughout Erie County; Reeds Jenss locations; and Native Pride Travel Plaza in Irving. For a complete listing of all donation sites and a map, visit www.colvincleaners.com or www.gownsforprom.com.

The Allstate Foundation is the presenting sponsor for the Colvin Cleaners “Gowns for Prom” and “Coats 4 Kids” programs. Coats and gowns are collected year-round in their offices.

“It brings tears to our eyes to see these students 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,” Billoni added. “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.”

Volunteers, aged 18 and over unless accompanied by a parent, are needed at Shea’s in the distribution and restocking of gowns and monitoring of the dressing rooms. Seamstresses and tailors are also needed to assist at Shea’s with alterations of the gowns. For more information, or if you know of a student in need of a prom gown, visit www.gownsforprom.com.

“Gowns for Prom” is a 501 (c)(3) under the Goodwill Industries of Western New York.

From left, Colvin Cleaners Vice President Christopher Billoni with his parents and co-founders of “Gowns for Prom”: Cyndee and company President Paul Billoni.

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