Maine Event Prom Project — Creating proms that love built

 

NW 39 prom project 1

PLAYING WITH GIRLY CLOTHES — is just one of the fringe benefits for Christine Bradstreet, left, founder of The Maine Event Prom Project, showing off a sampling of donated prom gowns with her friend and volunteer, Martha Cummings.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

"Every girl deserves to feel beautiful at her prom, no matter what financial challenges she is facing."

So begins the unlikely vision statement of a Bridgton mother of two boys. When Christine Bradstreet found herself a few months back with extra time on her hands to give to her community, she decided it would be rewarding and fun to provide prom gowns for girls whose families are financially stressed.

She learned that girls in central and southern Maine must travel at least an hour, to Maine coastal towns, or even to Massachusetts, to find a similar place where nearly-new prom gowns can be found at little or no cost in time for prom season in early May.

With that simple idea, The Maine Event Prom Project was born.

"This is my way to get to play with the girly clothes," Bradstreet laughs, as she shows off the racks of over 200 gowns, formal and semi-formal dresses and accessories that have already been donated to the effort.

She and the friends who are helping her aim to have 500 gowns available, with some tuxedos for the boys, by the time of the project's planned distribution date of Saturday, March 29, at the Bridgton United Methodist Church on Main Street.

It will be a giveaway event, though she's asking for a $10 donation from those families that can afford it.

"If they'd like to return (the gown), we will use it to supply another girl next year, but they're not obligated to return it," said Bradstreet. "They can give it to a cousin or friend or a neighbor. It's a gift."

Bradstreet's grassroots energy and enthusiasm for the project is also a gift. She's accomplished a great deal in the few short months since the idea for The Maine Event Prom Project entered her head. Drop-off points for gown donations have been set up at libraries in Bridgton, Fryeburg, Raymond, South Paris and Norway, and also at the Raymond Village Florist. A website, www.maineeventpromproject.org, has been created, featuring photos of all of the gowns and a page where donations can be made.

She got the idea from Carol Lanni of Lawrence, Mass., who began a prom gown giveaway project in 2007 in a small way, like Bradstreet, and which has since grown, with a permanent location that also supplies wedding gowns and bridesmaid's dresses.

Bradstreet's vision is just as ambitious.

"As soon as I spoke the thought out loud, the wheels started turning, and I called (Lanni). She gave me our first dresses — a selection in every size, so we would have something to start with."

Many were brand new, with the price tags, upwards to $200 or more, still attached — testifying to the fact that prom gowns aren't cheap. Many other dress shops, like La Donna Zabella Consignment Boutique in Norway, and others in Massachusetts have also agreed to donate surplus inventory.

"Sometimes it feels like I'm a one-armed paper-hanger, reaching out to as many people as I can think of," said Bradstreet, who moved to Bridgton three years ago when she married her husband, Bill Bradstreet. The gowns and dresses are being stored temporarily in an apartment above their garage. She just laughs when asked if her husband knew what he was signing on for when they got married.

"I just know that each year it will grow," said Bradstreet, who is applying for nonprofit status for the organization. Eventually she'd like to see the offerings expanded to include the kind of quality professional clothing women need when applying for or starting a new job.

As the project's website states, "Our Vision is Bigger than a Dress." The true mission, it states, "is to empower young women to know that good things are possible in their lives. Every young woman is valued as a smart and vital person no matter what financial challenges she may be facing."

Bradstreet said she's received a great deal of support for the project. She's been in touch with the high school, Anne Krieg, Bridgton's planner, and Beth Latsey, Casco's recreation director, to name a few. Debbie Davenport, director of the Bridgton Food Pantry at the Methodist Church, has also been very supportive, she said.

"Everybody's very excited. The libraries are all quite excited. It's been very grassroots, one person at a time. We're getting the word out, and it's starting to spread."

Donations of money will especially help outfit the boys, because it's been very challenging to find tuxedos or other formal wear for them, she said. Lake Region High School has arranged a discounted price for tuxedos with a supplier.

Cash donation may be made on the website or mailed to The Maine Prom Project, P.O. Box 982, Bridgton, ME 04009. Gowns may be dropped of at any of the libraries mentioned above or the Raymond Village Florist. For more information, Bradstreet may be reached by e-mail at info@maineeventpromproject.org or by calling 781-214-0603.

 

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