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Operation PROM Launches Hudson Valley Chapter

Petit Penelope in Wappingers Falls joins Operation PROM in bringing donated prom dresses and tuxedos to teenagers in need.

Eight years ago Noel D'Allacco was a wedding and event planner with a few too many bridesmaids dresses on her hands. Then, a bell went off. The Yonkers native called Saunders High School, her alma mater, and offered to bring over ten gowns for girls who couldn't afford to buy their own prom dresses. All ten dresses were used and Operation PROM, D'Allacco's non-profit, was born. 

"I was surprised because I didn’t realize that there were so many students in need," said D'Allacco. "One student was homeless. I wasn’t really aware of the situation back then. These girls probably thought they weren’t able to go to the prom. It made me feel good that I could help them."

Operation PROM distributed 3,200 dresses throughout New York last year, estimates D'Allacco, and the numbers will only grow with the addition of Petit Penelope in Wappingers Falls to the local chapters. The bridal and formalwear store officially launched its Operation PROM section Saturday, expanding the non-profit's presence in the Hudson Valley.

"This is the first Operation PROM being run in a store," said D'Allacco. "I think it’s a great connect because people coming in can learn about Operation PROM and bring back a dress they know they will only wear once."

To be elligble for a dress, high school students must fill out a form online or at their school guidance office stating they are in financial need, and be in good standing academically, a fact corroborated by an official school signature.

More than 100 high schools in the Hudson Valley and New York City benefit from the program and New Jersey and Georiga have chapters. Alternative schools where students are wards of the state are also served by Operation PROM, as are sick and terminally ill students, for whom the organization throws a prom in The Bronx.

Westchester's Department of Social Services and The College of Westchester, where D'Allacco teaches business, distribute dresses locally. Dresses must be in good condition, no more than three years old, and have no sleeves or stains. All sizes are accepted but plus sizes that are age-appropriate are in demand. Tuxedo donations are also needed. 

"We have been very fortunate to get very beautiful and expensive dresses," said D'Allacco. The list of designers includes Oscar de la Renta, Marchesa, Nicole Miller and Vera Wang.

At Saturday's Petit Penelope launch, Miss Hudson Valley 2012 Megan Hernandez and Miss Westchester Teen 2012 Jacqueline Groccia came out to support the cause and a few dozen dresses were collected. The gowns will be distributed during Spring Break. And for the first time, Men's Wearhouse is donating two free tuxedo rentals to every high school.

"Several of the girls I've met have told me and my volunteers that it’s the first time they've ever put on a dress," said D'Allacco. "They say, Wow I feel like a princess."

Liz January 10, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I am so disgusted by all of this. "My daughters dress well because I can afford it." Are you kidding?? " kids feel a societal need to get dressed up to feel good about themselves." Of course! Taking care of yourself on the outside and being mindful of your appearance is a bad thing? There is nothing wrong with dressing up and wanting to make yourself look nice to feel good about yourself on the inside. Unfortunately not everybody can dress as well as your daughters John Q cuz not everyone can afford it so maybe you should take the time to teach your daughters about donating what they have to less fortunate people around them and how you can feel good about yourself about helping others less fortunate. There is nothing wrong with kids wanting to attend Prom and they shouldn't be made to feel badly for it. They should celebrate have a good time and make memories and enjoy high school. Also I assume your daughters will not be attending their Prom? Good luck with that conversation.
Harvey Kant January 10, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Donating prom dresses, while seemingly noble, is misplaced. The prom organizers should scale things down and emphasize that you do not need an expensive dress (or tuxedo) for the prom. It would be a good opportunity to teach students budgeting and how to live within their means. There ARE stores where appropriate dresses can be purchased for a reasonable price. And by that I mean below $50.Why are students being taught that they have to live above their means to have a good time? In addition, why are other girls being encouraged to get rid of a dress after only one use? Most of those girls are probably be going to college or elsewhere where the dress, in a different situation, will be like new. Why get rid of it only to have to buy something else?
Lance Dugby January 10, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Harvey, you have too much time on your hands. Do something noble instead of criticizing this group of fine people for filling a need that the kids seem to love. Or are you one of those freaks looking to butt in and control peoples lives?
Lance Dugby January 10, 2012 at 11:19 PM
@ Rufus " Iwent to my Prom but because I do not want you to go to yours." Or said another way " I am up, pull the ladder up"
Lanning Taliaferro January 11, 2012 at 01:30 PM
I think Harvey raises an interesting point. We at Patch and our media colleagues are always reporting on the extraordinary spending on proms in local communities. I wonder what this recession has done to prom planning and spending. Patch should take a look. Anyone with examples from their own communities, please email me at lanning.taliaferro@patch.com


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