To celebrate Women’s History Month, we are featuring some of Westchester’s wonderful women!
For teenage kids in America, there are milestones that define them. Reaching the first year of high school, turning “sweet sixteen”, learning to drive (and scoring the keys, yeah!), and PROM. For a high school junior or senior, the prom is a right of passage…a way for kids to celebrate with their class, and gather together to have a party before they all graduate and venture off to other places and spaces. But…the Prom is a great expense these days. Long gone are days when kids gathered in their finest in high school gyms; self-decorated spaces full of balloons, and finger sandwiches. Nope…most Proms these days are at country clubs, restaurants or hotel ballrooms. Many kids don’t drive themselves, but opt instead for stretch limos or professional cars. And what to wear? It could cost a prom couple a small fortune…for the guys, tuxedo rentals are a must. And for girls, a dress, shoes, purse, wrap…hair, makeup and nails make the complete (and expensive) package!
But, what happens to kids who cannot afford Prom? What if the guy cannot pay for a tux, or the gal for her gown? What’s a teenager to do? In Westchester (where prices are most likely higher than other areas of our great nation), enter OperationPROM, and its founder, Noel D’Allacco. Over 8 years ago, D’Allacco had a vision, and she pushed it into reality with her charitable organization. She felt that the ability to afford a gown or a tux should not prohibit any teenager from attending their Prom. D’Allacco, who is currently a professor of business at the College of Westchester, was inspired to create the program, which provides free dresses and tuxedo rentals to kids, after working as a wedding planner and hearing many bridesmaids say they would never wear their dresses again. She began collecting these dresses, and started to donate them to Saunders High School in Yonkers, her alma mater.
OperationPROM has expanded from its inception to many National Chapters, and in addition to providing Prom Dresses and Tux rentals, it helps students with scholarships and the funding of school supplies. And…in Westchester, OperationPROM is partnered with the Westchester County Department of Social Services. Thanks to the program and the partnership, thousands of area teens have been able to attend their proms without worrying about the cost.
D’Alloco’s formula is fairly simple. To request a prom dress or tux, a student must fill out the application form, which can either be obtained from the student’s school guidance counselor, or from the county’s web site at www.westchestergov.com. (there are both English and Spanish versions of the form). In order to qualify, a student must be passing all their classes, and must have their guidance counselor or a social worker sign the form. According to D’Allocco, the biggest issue these days is getting the word out. Westchester County has been instrumental in this cause, by publicizing the program, as well as providing much needed storage space for the gowns and tuxedos. “Having the storage space is crucial, as last year, we distributed 3,200 gowns and tuxedos in the Westchester and greater NYC area” said D’Allocco. “This year we anticipate even higher demand.”
The county executive, Robert Astorino, and the DSS Commissioner, Kevin McGuire, will both be honored for their commitment to OperationPROM at a fund-raising event on March 27, 2012. The First Annual Operation Prom Runway Fashion Show and Fundraiser will be held on the 27th at the Westchester Manor in Hastings-on-Hudson. (140 Saw Mill River Road, HOH). The event will run from 6pm to 9pm, and tickets are $100 per person. Contestants from the recent Ms. Westchester Pageant will be modelling dresses that are available for the girls, and celebrity stylist and fashion journalist, JENE LUCIANI will be the evening’s host.
“Operation PROM continues to excite interest, and I think this year is the start of building new relationships throughout the county”, says Noel D’Allocco. If the past 8 years are any example of what OperationPROM, and the vision of D’Allocco can do, we agree with her!