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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."

Lisa Buchman (Editor) January 08, 2012 at 09:26 PM
What a terrific initiative! The Community Center of Northern Westchester also coordinates a prom dress collection and distribution effort, there's more information here: http://bedford.patch.com/articles/community-center-opens-prom-clothes-closet
John Q. Public January 08, 2012 at 10:02 PM
As a parent of girls I am sickened by this. Happily my daughters aspire to greater things than being the prom queen. They are athletic, strong, beautiful. They could be prom queen if they bought into the superficiality which these women are perpetuating. But they have too much self respect, much more than the perpetrators of this bad thing. This program victimizes young girls while at the same time pretends to help them. The worst kind of alleged social contribution.
joshua tanner January 08, 2012 at 10:27 PM
These days - I'm glad Miss Westchester is actually a girl lol
Captain's Wife January 08, 2012 at 11:47 PM
John Q -, How is this a bad thing? It is providing prom dresses to girls that otherwise can't afford them. I don't understand your logic? So your kids are not allowed to attend prom because it will victimize them? I am just not understanding why it is negative to donate your dresses that are no longer needed so someone less fortunate than your children can enjoy the prom.
Lance Dugby January 08, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Cool it John...what article did YOU read? This was about donating dresses and tuxedos to kids who could not afford them. Seems like a worthy undertaking. Nothing to do with some of the things you mentioned.
Rob January 09, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Hey John Q.....Which article were you reading ? Nothing was said about the prom Queen. ....Regardless, with all due respect to my wife, That Noel D'Allacco is a hot number....
John Q. Public January 09, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Not sure why the Patch deleted my comment. My main point is, it's not what you wear but what's in your heart. I suppose Liz will delete this as well to cowtow to her ultrarich posters. No point in posting when superficial rich people oppress the debate.
Nancy January 09, 2012 at 02:03 PM
John, You are mean spirited and I wonder what your girls are learning from you. If a High School student wants to attend their prom and finances are stopping them this might be able to offset the cost enough for them to enjoy this right of passage. PLUS it recycles dresses & tuxs that otherwise go to waste. I for one and my friends are NOT Ultra Rich and my friends struggled and save for their children to go to their prom. Any thing that can be done to bring down the costs so that more of our young people can enjoy their prom the better.
Cindy Kuster January 09, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Great idea ... my only issue with this article is, that there are many beautiful prom dresses that are NOT Oscar de la Renta or Vera Wang. Yes, it's nice to get a fancy-label dress, but don't make it about the LABEL of the dress the girls get - it's about looking and feeling beautiful, no matter where your dress comes from. Fostering 'label envy' is just a bad place to go. Otherwise, good article.
peekskillman January 09, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Mr. JQ Public: for shame,sir! Some people are doing something nice for the less fortunate, and you turn it around as "victimizing" young girls. It's not about a contest, but helping out young girls who would otherwise not be able to afford a dress. Climb out of your ivory tower and pray that you and yours are never in the situation of needing someone's generosity. I applaud the good work that Ms D'Allocco and her organization is doing!!
John Q. Public January 09, 2012 at 10:20 PM
The world is definitely "out of joint" when you folks demonize people who tell young girls their self-worth comes from what's in their hearts not what they wear. I stand by my values. And my daughters will always know they are loved, regardless of what "society" and aspirational marketers tell them they must wear. I think many of you misunderstand human nature. Young people are proud and want to be accepted for who they are. No one wants a hand out. My daughters dress well because I can afford it. I'm shocked by how superficial the people who post to this thread are. I'm sorry for every child whose parents cannot appreciate them for who they are.
Noel Dallacco January 10, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Thank you Julia & The Patch for featuring our new chapter! Operation PROM is thrilled to be going strong for 8 years, with chapters all along the East Coast. We welcome any gently used dress and/or tuxedo donation! In today's economy, many are struggling financially. We focus more on whether a student is passing all their classes! If they are in need of a dress or tuxedo, then they are more than welcome to come to any of our distribution events. After all, why not recycle formal wear that has only been worn once? Operation PROM & our partner, The Department of Social Services, thanks you for your continued support!
John Q. Public January 10, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Ms. D'Allacco, I applaud what you do. But I also hope you recognize how important it is for parents to embrace our children for who they are, and not try to make them live some ideal we may or may not have lived.
Issy January 10, 2012 at 02:10 AM
" I'm shocked by how superficial the people who post to this thread are" ....... Oh the irony!
RealTimeRufus January 10, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I don't think John Q. was attacking the idea of the distribution of dresses to the less fortunate. As long as there is such a thing as a prom, then that's a good deed. I think he was challenging the prom itself and the notion that kids feel a societal need to get dressed up to feel good about themselves. I think there is some merit in this argument. The idea of a prom seems a little dated. It should have gone the way of the sock-hop and the drive-in theater. Once Kennedy was killed, the prom lost whatever cachet it had. It belongs to a bygone era. And before anybody claims that I didn't go to mine, let me say that I did. Truth be told, however, I did have an unseemly contretemps where I imbibed slightly too much and accidentally micturated on myself. That may have prejudiced me. Who knows? In any event, I congratulate Noel on a fine charitable deed even if we may disgree on the priority of the prom itself.
BG7 January 10, 2012 at 02:27 PM
"people who tell young girls their self-worth comes from what's in their hearts not what they wear." No - you're the one being extremely judgmental, you are positioning yourself in society as "better" because of some noble ideology you espouse, and your taking a preposterous in extremis and discredited position that if young girls want to look nice its somehow mutually exclusive with mental health or any other achievement. Really- you sound like a 1960's bra-burner. Its 2011 - girls want it all - to be successful, clever and look nice. These things are not mutually exclusive! In the end its just some kids having fun and just some big-hearted adults helping them out - so your fake shock and outrage, the "demonized" victimhood you're selling - we ain't buying.
Liz Giegerich January 10, 2012 at 03:54 PM
John, your comment is still posted on this thread from what I can see - the one about your daughters...If another comment was deleted, it was not deleted by me, but likely another editor. Comments get deleted when they are personal attacks, include inappropriate language, are libelous, etc... You can read our terms here: peekskill.patch.com/terms. Thanks for reading.
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 (Editor) 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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