OCL prom project provides more than 800 dresses to teens

You know spring is in the air when thoughts of prom season are well underway.

Staff members of OCL’s 21 branches were doing more than just thinking about prom season when they collected more than 800 fancy dresses through a program involving the Teen Services Department. The dresses will be given away to teenage girls preparing for spring formals, junior and senior proms and graduations.

Teen Services Coordinator Pham Condello showed off some of the dresses along with Sawyer Marshock, 14, of Beachwood and Manchester Teen Services Librarian Elaine Menken on March 7 at the Toms River Branch.

OCL began collecting new and gently used dresses of varied lengths, colors and styles five years ago. The dresses were at first distributed at the Lakewood Branch but the program quickly expanded to include Jackson, Barnegat and Toms River according to Condello.

Condello said the collection also included accessories such as shoes, bags, wraps, gloves and jewelry. The collection will end on April 5 and the first free distributions of the season took place in Jackson on March 10 and 11.

“This is such a cool program because everyone who is a part of it feels good,’’ Menken said.

“It is such a great feeling to see a girl try on a dress she loves. They are so happy when they come out of the dressing room knowing they can take the dress home,’’ Condello said.

The process of shopping at the dress giveaways is similar to going to a dress store. Each branch converts a full room into a boutique for the event. Four rolling racks of dresses are carefully arranged in order of size and two dressing rooms and a full length mirror are set up to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

Tables are set up near the room’s perimeter that includes arrangements of handbags, jewelry, shoes, shawls, wraps and other items.

The girls’ privacy is maintained and they are not required to identify themselves or demonstrate need. “They simply come and shop,’’ Condello said.

The cost of prom dresses in general can range to as high as $500 and not everyone can afford such a purchase.

Sawyer, who modeled some of the dresses, said she felt like the princess from the film “Frozen” when she donned a blue gown. Sawyer is a freshman acting major at The Performing Arts Academy.

Dress giveaways are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at the Lakewood Branch; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday March 29, at the Toms River Branch and 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday April 8, and Sunday April 9, at the Barnegat Branch.

For information, visit www.theoceancountylibrary.org or call 732-349-6200.

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