Gowns For Girls is a new organization getting its start in the Bloomingdale area, and it aims to provide prom and homecoming dresses to students who are not able to buy their own.

Mulrennan teacher Stephanie Brown and her friend, Alicia Tew, first noticed this need in the community when attending a Bell of the Ball Project event. Bell of the Ball is another nonprofit with a similar goal, but it operates in Clearwater, which is sometimes inaccessible for girls in East Hillsborough.

“We realized we could do something really good in our area,” said Brown.

Last August, Brown and Tew began requesting donations from the community to build their inventory of formal dresses. A downsizing bridal shop in Brooksville was able to start their collection, and since then donations have poured in from locals. So many dresses have been accumulated that Bloomingdale Self Storage donated a storage unit to Brown and Tew to use for the project.

Tide Cleaners on Bloomingdale is currently a drop-off site for dresses, and it will also clean any donations that need it. All formal dresses are welcome donations, and if Gowns For Girls cannot use a dress, it will be passed along to ECHO, another nonprofit, and be used for fundraising.

Additionally, Alteration Specialist Jeanne Fredrichs is generously mending damaged dresses so they can still be used for the project. Tide Cleaners’ and Fredrichs’ contributions have made dress a girl is thinking about selling or giving away will also qualify to be donated to Gowns For Girls.

The distribution dates for prom dresses are Wednesday, February 1 and 22. Dresses will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Centerpoint Church on the corner of Durant Rd. and Miller Rd. In order to receive a dress, girls will have to appear in person with an adult who can attest to their financial difficulties or be referred by school or agency officials.

Volunteers will be needed on these dates to help keep things organized and running smoothly. Anyone who is interested in volunteering or has additional questions about Gowns For Girls can contact Brown and Tew at gownsforgirls.info@gmail.com.

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