In the bright lights of red carpet arrivals in February award shows, high school junior and senior girls are constantly reminded that prom season brings enormous stress on local families with limited financial resources. Young women are bombarded with media messages about designer dresses, shoes, jewelry and hair and makeup tips, and yearn to participate in one of the biggest (and most expensive) events in a young adult’s life. For the 12th time, Caring Partners’ “Belle of the Ball” prom dress drive is back to help high school junior and senior girls who may choose not to attend this major life event due to financial constraints.
On February 1, 2016, Anton’s Cleaners kicked off its 12th annual Belle of the Ball Prom Dress Collection program at all Anton’s Cleaners and Jordan’s Furniture locations through March 26,2016. The public is invited to help by donating good quality, gently worn or new prom dresses and like-new special occasion purses.
Anton’s Cleaners then cleans the donated prom dresses at no charge, and distributes to high school junior and senior girls who could not otherwise afford to attend their school’s prom.
These items can be dropped off at any of Anton’s Cleaners 42 locations or Jordan’s Furniture stores through March 26, 2016 (see antons.com and jordans.com for store locations). Monetary and in-kind donations are also welcome to cover jewelry, makeup and other accessories and prom-related services; visit antons.com/belle.
All dresses are cleaned by Anton’s free of charge as a community service as a program of Caring Partners, Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Unlike other prom gown collection drives, this program culminates in a day-long “boutique” where deserving girls are invited for a day of personal shopping and pampering. Last year, over nearly 500 girls participated in Boutique Day hosted by Simmons College, with dresses displayed in a variety of colors, styles and sizes displayed, all free of charge. To date, more than 3,000 girls have been outfitted since Belle of the Ball began in 2005.
Since attendance to Boutique Day is by “invitation only,” students must be pre-qualified by guidance counselors, teachers and social service agency personnel, who refer high school girls to the program. Referrals are welcome through the website (antons.com/belle).
“Prom is one of the most memorable days in a young woman’s life, and as long as this program has been running, we ensure that no high school girl misses her prom for financial reasons,” said Arthur Anton Jr., COO, Anton’s Cleaners and a founder of Belle of the Ball. “Belle of the Ball was established a dozen years ago to let girls feel like a princess on the night of the ball and be beautiful, inside and out, thanks to our team of volunteers and supporters.”
Last year, Belle of the Ball collected 6,789 dresses as well as thousands of shoes, purses and makeup items from more than 1,000 individuals from local corporations, nonprofits, retailers, media partners and volunteers. Anton’s Cleaners collected and cleaned the donated dresses, with cleaning services exceeding $259,000 in value, bringing the total donated to $1,733,503.
According to Eliot Tatelman, President and CEO of Jordan’s Furniture, “We are happy to continue our support of this great program with Anton’s and Caring Partners. Our generous customers donate hundreds of dresses and gowns, and the Belle Boutique Day is so inspiring. We are so proud to play an integral role in Belle of the Ball. It warms our hearts to see the huge smiles on the faces of these wonderful girls each season.”
Promotional partners on board this year including Jordan’s Furniture, FOX25, The Bull 101.7, Kiss 108 FM, JAM’N 94.5, and Wicked Local.
Similar to Anton’s successful Coats for Kids drive, the collection effort is coordinated with high schools, colleges, and corporate and community partners. Companies, organizations and schools interested in holding a prom dress collection drive, making an in-kind donation, or individuals looking to volunteer at the boutique can obtain more information at antons.com/belle.
More than a dress collection drive, Belle of the Ball is a powerful personal experience for each young woman invited to attend. The referred participants often come from difficult backgrounds, both financially and emotionally. Over the years, participants of Belle of the Ball have reflected that it was a wonderful experience not because of how they looked in their dress, but because of the positive change in the way they felt about themselves.