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prom 2019

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Emma S. Clark Memorial Library has already collected more than 60 gowns for its upcoming Project Prom Dress event. By Lisa DeVerna

Three Village residents are teaming up with the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library to help students have the prom of a lifetime.

One of the dresses that will be available on the day of the prom gown shopping event. Photo by Lisa DeVerna

On March 9, the library will debut a one-day shopping event called Project Prom Dress where teenagers can walk away with a free gown. Irene Berman, a retired Minnesauke Elementary School teacher, said she was watching a television show featuring a segment about teenagers purchasing prom gowns for a small fee at a library in Parsippany, New Jersey. The dresses were collected by the library’s friends group to help students in need.

“It was so uplifting,” Berman said. “I was actually crying watching it.”

The retired teacher thought it was a good idea to bring to her own area, and she and Kathryn Hunter, who currently teaches fifth grade at Minnesauke, presented the proposal for a prom boutique where students can get dresses for free to a library board trustee.

Library Director Ted Gutmann said the board thought it was a good idea and then formed a team that includes Nanette Feder, teen services librarian; Lisa DeVerna, public relations and community engagement; and Jen Mullen, librarian and public relations.

Berman said the boutique will be opened to residents and nonresidents and is ideal for those on a tight budget or those who want to go green by wearing a recycled dress instead of buying a new one that will most likely only be worn once. Feder added the boutique is also a good opportunity for younger students who are being invited to the senior prom for them to save money on a gown.

The teen services librarian said the library started collecting dresses Jan. 1, and they already have more than 60.

“I’m looking forward to having the students coming in and seeing what the community donated,” Feder said.

“I’m looking forward to having the students coming in and seeing what the community donated.”

— Nanette Feder

Berman said she and Hunter recently visited stores in Stony Brook Village Center to see if any businesses could donate racks to hold the dresses. Ann Taylor Loft, Madison Niche and Chico’s managers offered racks. Once Chico’s manager heard they were trying to help 60 students, she said she will look into the store donating necklaces for each of the promgoers.

In addition to local stores and residents donating dresses, Feder said the night before the prom boutique event, teens will help sort through the dresses and accessories, earning community service credits for their time.

Gutmann said based on the number of dresses received and the response of residents so far, he is optimistic about the prom event and is grateful to Berman and Hunter for reaching out to the library.

“It shows that our community is active in these kinds of things and wants to help out,” Gutmann said.

Residents and nonresidents can drop off prom gowns and accessories at the library through Feb. 14, and donation racks are located in the library lobby. Dresses must be cleaned and in excellent condition with no stains or tears, and the garments must be brought in on a hanger. Purses, shoes, jewelry and other prom accessories will also be accepted.

The library will hold the shopping event Project Prom Dress in the Vincent O’Leary Community Room March 9. Students can schedule an appointment for the Prom Dress Boutique where they can check out the donated prom gowns, try them on and take one home free of charge. Each shopper is limited to one guest to assist them.

Registration begins Feb. 4 for Three Village residents and Feb. 19 for nonresidents, if spots are still available. Snow date is March 23. To reserve a time slot, call 631-941-4080, ext. 127. The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library is located at 120 Main St., Setauket.