HACKENSACK, NJ -- Prom dresses can cost hundreds of dollars, making them an out-of-reach expense for some families, but Johnson Public Library is trying to make sure every girl gets the chance to shine on that special night.
On Saturday, the library will host its second Dress Giveaway, which will offer free prom and cotillion dresses to middle school and high school students.
The giveaway will run from noon to 3 p.m. at the library, 274 Main Street, Hackensack.
Hackensack residency is not required but students must bring proof of grade level, such as a school ID card or report card that lists grade level. Dresses will be available on a first come, first serve basis and there is a limit of one dress per student. Also, the student must be present to pick up the dress.
For the second year in a row, the library partnered with Operation Prom, a non-profit organization that aims to help teenagers attend their proms by providing free dresses and tuxedos that have been donated. While the organization has assisted with coordinating drives in other counties, such as Passaic and Essex in recent years, 2018 was the first time it helped with an event in Bergen.
And, once again, several other libraries in Bergen County helped collect dresses and accessories for Hackensack’s event. This year’s partner libraries were: Closter, Demarest, Glen Rock, Old Tappan, Paramus, Ramsey, Township of Washington, Waldwick and Wyckoff.
Laurie Meeske, Johnson Public Library's outreach librarian, said, "Last year, some library staff saw a presentation on United for ALICE, which focuses attention on working families struggling to get by. We wanted to do something to help these families, and a prom dress giveaway was one of the ideas that came out of that conversation. Because of the strong connection libraries have with their communities, we felt that we were perfectly positioned to gather these dresses and help re-home them. We got in touch with Operation Prom, and other libraries in BCCLS (the Bergen County Cooperative Library System) generously agreed to help us collect dresses for the giveaway event."
Last year, more than 250 dresses were donated. This year's drive has already surpassed that number by at least 700, Meeske estimated.
"We are so lucky that people have been so generous in their donations," Meeske said.
She added, "I've been blown away by the large selection of dresses we have received - not only are they beautiful, but many of them still have their tags on and have never even been worn! We have dresses with $200 and $400 price tags still on them. Last year, we even had one with a $1200 price tag! It's like going to a dress store and being able to take home a dress without paying for it - a real bargain."
A 2015 survey by Visa Inc. found that the average family spends more than $919 on prom-related costs. Dresses are by far the priciest items on that list, averaging between $300 and $500 at major department stores.
Families in the Northeast lead spending, shelling out an average of $1,169, according to the survey, which noted the region's higher costs of living.
For additional information on Saturday's giveaway, contact Johnson Public Library at 201-343-4169 or email Teen Librarian Keri Adams at email@example.com.