VERNON – Prom season typically means a high price tag for high fashion, but the Cornerstone Foundation is in its seventh year helping local high school students with the high costs.
The annual free Prom Boutique store is open to all high school students on April 29-30, at 1C Prospect St., offering new and softly used evening dresses and tuxedos, shoes, evening bags, jewelry and makeup.
Just like an elegant boutique, students can try on the clothes and take their favorite items home. Small changes are also available on site free of charge.
Spokesman Alexis Carmichael said the foundation started this annual event seven years ago when students approached the nonprofit in search of a ball gown. This let the agency know that it was necessary to offer prom clothing to the community. Since then the event has grown, as they received over 450 prom dresses donated for the boutique this year.
Christine Filanowicz, director of the Clothing Bank and Prom Boutique, said that at first the clothing bank only had a few ball gowns hanging from a rack.
“Then it became, ‘well, you know, I have a problem. Do you have any clothes? ‘”Said a customer she asked about eight years ago.
Filanowicz then decided to send notices to the public, asking for donations of prom dresses and formal evening dresses. The rest is history, he said about growth.
It started as a service to Vernon’s students and neighboring communities, including East Hartford, Ellington, Manchester, South Windsor, and Tolland. But in 2018, organizers claimed to have served high school students from further afield, including from Ashford, Rocky Hill, and Putnam.
One of the things that stood out for Filanowicz this year was helping a particular girl who came from Hungary and new to this country look for a prom dress with her family.
She took her dress and all the accessories, Filanowicz said. As she walked out with her new dress in hand, Filanowicz said the girl exclaimed “‘Best day ever!’ How can you not look at him with joy? ” Filanowcz asked.
Filanowicz said that just a couple of weeks ago the girl didn’t have a dress.
“He didn’t know anything about a prom. ‘What is a prom? We don’t have it in Hungary. ‘ It was fun working with them… watching (moms) look at their girls in their dresses in the mirror, ”Filanowicz said.
The Hungarian girl’s mother “had only tears running down – she was so excited for her daughter,” she said.
Cornerstone is a faith-based ministry run primarily by volunteers that provides food, shelter, clothing, and outreach services in five buildings spread across downtown Rockville.
With its annual prom boutique, the nonprofit organization offers a unique service for high school students.
Rockville High School Principal Jason Magao said he greatly appreciates the community collaboration the school has with the boutique.
“The Cornerstone Prom Boutique has provided our students with incredible opportunities to participate in proms without having to worry about the significant cost of purchasing a dress from the store,” said Magao. “Our staff and students alike support Cornerstone and we truly appreciate what they provide in return for our students and families. We can’t thank them enough ”.
Deidre Montague covers the cities of Vernon and Stafford.