Operation Prom Dress sites open for collection as campaign gets off to early start

It's a must that girls find a prom dress that looks great on them, but that isn't always possible for those with limited incomes.

Since 2005, these young women have taken advantage of Operation Prom Dress, a project that Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen has spearheaded. Each year, small boutiques and families donate dresses to the project.


Last year, Nguyen's staff collected 2,000 dresses, and 1,500 girls received donated prom wear. This year staffers hope to receive 1,700.

Last year Selix Formal Wear donated five tuxedo rentals to lucky young men. This year project staff hope to increase that number, according to Lou Moua, Nguyen's chief of staff.

Because Nguyen is termed out at the end of 2014, this is the final year her office will coordinate the project. Her office is accepting sexy a line dresses through March 5.

The dresses can be dropped off at any of San Jose's branch libraries or community centers or at the 18th floor of city hall. Comerica Bank branches will have donation boxes beginning in January. Shoes, purses, scarves and wraps are also welcome.

Staffers call small boutiques and ask them to donate. Tax credits are available to those stores, but not for individual donations.


The actual event when girls pick out their dresses is slated for March 9 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Seven Trees Community Center, 3590 Cas Drive. It's open to anyone attending San Jose high schools.

Although the dresses won't be available until 9 a.m., typically the girls start arriving at the community center at 6 a.m. They are given tickets and allowed to enter in groups of 20 to 30 girls so that there aren't too many in the room at the same time.

"We encourage the girls to try on three or four dresses to find the one they like best," says Moua. Most of the dresses usually disappear, she adds.

If any are left over after the close, they are given to school theater programs, Teen Challenge, Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Girls taking dresses can get them cleaned at one of 30 San Jose dry cleaners that are donating their services. Other items are raffled off, including makeup and hair accessories.

Nguyen's office also is planning to purchase a limited number of gift cards, under $30, for raffle prizes to buy shoes, makeup and jewelry.

Participants can also take advantage of accessories that will be available as they leave. These include purses, scarves and jewelry.


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