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13th Annual Gowns for Prom Program

Every year, Colvin Cleaners holds a drive that seeks to collect hand-me-down prom dresses for girls who can’t afford to purchase new dresses. Stop to think about it for a second. We’re talking about a dress that will most likely only be worn once, before being hung up in a closet. That same dress could be worn by another young girl the following year. After all, we’re talking about a garment that is almost brand new.

Volunteer Sue Billoni in the back of a Colvin Cleaners truck filled with donated gowns

In 2018, the Gowns for Prom “Gown Drive” was held at three Reeds/Jenss locations*. The drive was presented by Allstate Foundation and supported by KISS 98.5 with Janet Snyder. In the end, hundreds of gowns were collected, marking the event as another success.

“Our goal each year is to provide every young lady in Western New York, who otherwise could not afford one, a perfectly altered and dry cleaned gown for her upcoming high school prom,” said Paul A. Billoni, President and CEO of Colvin Cleaners. “We are in communication with nearly 90 high schools from Batavia to Jamestown to Niagara County and from our communication we see the need for gowns is tremendous.  We thank Jeffrey Zimmer and Reeds Jenss for hosting this event as it now gives us confidence we will have plenty of gowns for the distribution in two weeks on the stage at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.”

The next part of a donated gown’s journey is about as ‘starstruck’ as it gets. After the gowns are sorted by size, they are delivered to Shea’s Performing Arts Center. Then, on the dates of April 9, 10 and 11, from 3pm to 8:00 pm, students arrive to select their dream gowns. Girls will have a chance to browse through thousands of collected gowns, arranged by size on stage.

Schools have been encouraged to bring students together, possibly in a bus, so they are together selecting gowns and avoiding similar colors and styles.

Once a girl selects a dress, she then takes it upstairs to the stars’ dressing rooms, where professional seamstresses await to alter, dry clean, and package the garments. The last step of the journey comes when Colvin Cleaners delivers the gowns, for free, to the young girls’ respective schools, before prom day.

*The three Reeds Jenss locations have Colvin Cleaners wrapped barrels inside their stores for the year round collection of gowns, coats and accessories for the gowns and Coats for Kids programs. Year round collections are also taking place at Colvin Cleaners, 2375 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; 40 Allstate Insurance Agencies throughout Western New York; six Erie County Department of Motor Vehicles offices and inside Native Price Truck Plaza and Restaurant, 11359 Southwestern Blvd. in Irving.  For a complete listing of all donation sites and a map, visit or

Volunteers, aged 18 and over, unless accompanied by a parent, are needed at Shea’s in the distribution and restocking of gowns and monitoring of the dressing rooms.  Seamstresses and tailors to assist at Shea’s with alterations of the gowns, are also needed. For more information, or if you know of a young lady in need of a prom gown, visit  Gowns for Prom is a 501c3 under the Goodwill Industries of Western New York.

Lead image: Chris Billoni, Vice President of Colvin Cleaners and volunteers collecting gowns at the Orchard Park location

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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