Gowns to give
Nonprofit Abby's Closet offers free prom dresses to high school students
Ten years ago, a young high school graduate was cleaning out her closet before heading off to college. Abby Egland of West Linn asked her mother, Sally, what she should do with the pink dress she had worn to her high school prom.
Why not give it away? the two women asked themselves as they stood looking at the dress in Abbys closet.
Today, that one dress in Abbys closet has grown into the largest closetful of prom dresses in the state. On April 5 and 6, the nonprofit group Abbys Closet will offer about 7,000 gowns, free of charge, to high school women seeking formalwear for their own high school proms or other special occasions.
Lois Moll, a Lake Oswego resident and a volunteer with Abbys Closet, has sorted and boxed countless gowns. And she has seen thousands of girls find just the right dress.
I do it because it makes me feel good to see a girl find a dress, Moll said. Its amazing to see a girl try on a dress that is her dress. Her body language, expression I can tell its a good experience for them when they find the right dress. A lot of times, its the only formal gown theyve ever owned.
Looking at the racks upon racks of dresses in the groups Tualatin warehouse space, its hard to imagine that any girl could fail to find just the right dress. Dozens of boxes hold even more tantalizing possibilities. Every box holds even more gowns, each checked for stains and tears and then sorted by color and size to make finding the right gown easier.
Theres a dress for everybody, Moll said. Its amazing how the styles vary and how the girls vary.
At the event, every girl who wants a dress can have one, at no charge.
She just has to show her student ID, Moll said. She can be homeschooled. We dont ask any consideration of need. Its any high school student.
In the past, busloads of girls have come from as far away as Salem and the Oregon coast.
We have girls that spend the night. I think its kind of like a concert, back in the olden days, Moll said.
Many of the collected gowns come from closets just like Abby Eglands, as women and girls make room by clearing out dresses purchased for a special occasion like a dance or wedding and worn just once. Purchased new, many of the dresses would have cost between $200 and $300. Some of them originally would have cost much more, Moll said. Each will be offered for free at the April giveaway.
High school volunteers operate dress drives to gather donations too. At West Linn High School, senior Amanda Comings invited students to bring formal gowns to school. Comings serves with about 20 others, including students from Lakeridge, on a student advisory board for Abbys Closet. After collecting dresses and helping to sort and size them, Comings and her fellow student volunteers will work at the dress giveaway next month.
Its an awesome way of giving back to our community. Were all so privileged. I really like when somebody finds a dress that they love, knowing that I had a part in that, she said. There were tons last year that are engraved in my mind, how happy the girls were. Its just awesome.
Comings emphasized that the dress giveaway is open to all.
Anybody can go. Its not need based; its want-based, she said.
She said the sheer number of gowns and the variety of styles is overwhelming, even for the volunteers who have worked with Abbys Closet before.
Its hard to find a dress thats unique, she said. Going to Abbys Closet, you can find a unique dress there. We dont normally get in mass numbers of the same dress. Theyre completely different, every single one.
Moll also used the word overwhelming to describe the giveaway event.
Seven thousand dresses in one place is a lot of dresses, she said.
She hopes that word will spread, so the even more young women will attend the giveaway this year.
We want more girls to come, she said. Weve kind of plateaued at 2,000 girls, and were not really sure why.
The 10th annual Abbys Closet prom gown giveaway will be held April 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and April 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Oregon Convention Center, Exhibit Hall D, at 777 NE MLK Boulevard in Portland. There is no charge to attend.Add a comment