Prom Dress Giveaway at St. James Parish in Lothian

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Last year, they gave away 30 dresses. They’re hoping to do the same or better this year.

There is a Cinderella story waiting to unfold at St. James Parish. It’s likely to happen too, all because a group of young women from Southern High School are preparing for their second annual prom dress giveaway event. That’s where students from South County, Annapolis and northern Calvert County will be able to shop, for free, for a prom dress, shoes, purse, earrings — the whole shebang.

The giveaway itself will take place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on April 5 in the Parish Hall at St. James Church in Lothian. It will be open to students from Southern High, South River High and Annapolis High in Anne Arundel County, and Huntingtown High and Northern High in Calvert County.

Students interested in getting a free dress should contact their school guidance office for a ticket to the event. Guidance counselors at the schools will also be seeking out students who may come from disadvantaged households.

In addition to the shopping, custom alterations will be done on site. And, if that isn’t enough, a Mary Kay beauty consultant will be on hand with makeup tips and samples to give away.

The girls involved—Caroline Pickart, Katharine Milbradt, Emily Rudisil, Karen Furr, Pilar Boucher, Caroline Miller, Katie Mather and Meghan Segreti—have been collecting dresses since last year’s event.

They gave the South River Source a preview and they have some beautiful dresses to offer. They have all the 2014 prom dress trends, including beading, illusions, cut-outs, black and white, strapless, sweetheart necklines. They also have all sizes, from 0s to size 20. They aim to have something for everyone.

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At last year’s giveaway, the St. James Parish Hall transformed into a prom boutique.

“It’s really rewarding,” Pickart said of last year’s event. “I remember one girl who got a poofy dress. It made her day and you know it was going to make her feel beautiful at the dance.”

Furr said that some of their customers start out a little shy.

“You have to engage them by pulling dresses—things they might want or look good in,” she said.

Currently, they have about 300 dresses, but they will be heading out to Charity’s Closet in Savage Mill to see if they can get a few more to offer before the April 5 event.

They are hoping to get a few prom tickets to offer as well. Southern’s Prom is May 10. South River’s Prom is May 17.

Mary Hoffman is a Mary Kay consultant. She helped out last year by offering makeup consultations and free samples to the girls. She is a member of St. James and got involved when Kat Milbradt, one of her former music students, was looking for help. She’ll be lending a hand again this year.

“It’s a wonderful program. I bring a whole bunch of discontinued colors and samples and color cards. Once they settle on a dress, I show them how to apply, tastefully, the makeup. Then I give them samples to take home for the night of the prom,” she said.

They set everything up in the Parish Hall.

Hoffman said that the teenagers mostly know what they are doing when it comes to makeup, it is just that the more economically-challenged families never dream of being able to do the dress, the accessories, the alterations and the makeup all at once.

“They’re skeptical about the whole thing. But when they get the dress on and the makeup on, they’re just transformed,” she said. “It’s really moving to see the whole process. The mothers and the girls are shining.”

Karen Furr, Caroline Pickart and Katherine Milbradt model three of the dresses that will be available at the Prom Dress Giveaway on April 5.

Karen Furr, Caroline Pickart and Katherine Milbradt model three of the dresses that will be available at the Prom Dress Giveaway on April 5.

Catherine Tucker of Catherine’s Drapery and Upholstery in Deale does the alterations. She sets up a table with her sewing machine on Friday night and then gets to work on Saturday. Most of the alterations she takes care of while the girls wait. Others that are more involved she may have to take with her and make a connection later.

“I fit as many as I can. There is a month from the time of the giveaway to the actual event,” Tucker said.

She said she donates her time to the cause because she gets a lot of personal satisfaction out of it.

“I’m a seamstress by trade. I have made clothes for years, made many gowns and did alterations for a living,” she said.

The girls pick out their dresses, then change. Tucker pins them up and then they get their makeup done while they wait for the alterations. When they leave, the dress fits like a glove.

“Some of the dresses are in the $300-$600 range,” Tucker said.

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A sampling of the dresses that will be available.

She said that the alterations on such a gown could run into the triple digits, so getting the fitting saves these young women not only time but also a lot of money.

That is something that might be out of reach if not for Tucker and her on-site sewing skills.

In all, the girls, along with Hoffman and Tucker, said that the event was not only immensely satisfying, personally, but also a lot of fun.

“Even if we just helped two people, it would be worth it,” Milbradt said.

They will be accepting dresses all the way up the April 5 event, so if you have something in your closet that you might be able to contribute, pass it along.

They will be collecting dresses during Saturday and Sunday Mass (March 22-23) at Holy Family Church in Davidsonville. Email Claire Pickart to arrange for a drop-off or pick-up of your leftover prom/bridesmaid/inaugural/fancy gown.

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About Mitchelle Stephenson

I've gotta tell Mitchelle! Send your South County news tips, brag on your fab volunteers, talk traffic, police and fire or just say "howdy" to Mitchelle Stephenson, co-founding editor of the South River Source. Mitchelle@SouthRiverSource.com or reach me in person on mobile: 410-353-4706.

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