big pony polo dress Gowns for Prom is about more than the dress
Seamstresses Damayanthi Navaneethan, left, and Lyubov Svirgun, right, work on donated prom dresses on Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Colvin Cleaners to prepare for the annual Gowns for Prom giveaway. The event is organized by Paul Billoni and his wife Cyndee, owners of Colvin Cleaners, who are standing. The work was being done at the Colvin Cleaners Elmwood Avenue location in Kenmore. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)
For the Billonis, Gowns for Prom is about more than the dressEach year, Colvin Cleaners collects thousands of donated dresses and displays and distributes them free to high school girls April 4 6 on the stage at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.
The dresses chosen by the girls are professionally altered, dry cleaned and delivered to the girls. The goal, according to Colvin Cleaners, is to make sure “every young lady in Western New York has a gown for the prom.”
Paul Billoni and his wife Cyndee, owners of Colvin Cleaners, examine donated prom dresses on Thursday, March 23, 2017. at Colvin Cleaners in Kenmore. The business is repairing gowns for the its annual prom dress giveaway. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)
But for Paul Billoni, the owner and president of Colvin Cleaners and his wife, Cyndee Billoni, the 12th annual campaign is about much more than a dress.
“We just feel very fortunate to have what we have. To be able to help people that are in need puts a smile on our faces,” said Paul Billoni. “My mother always taught us, ‘You get so much by giving.’ It’s something I learned at a young age.”
“There’s a couple times a day that we are in tears because people are just so appreciative,” said Cyndee Billoni, who said they’ve seen the need for the dresses increase in the Buffalo area.
This year, Colvin Cleaners expects to have3,000 or more dresses available.
Dresses, as well as shoes and purses, are being collected through March 31 at Colvin Cleaners, 2375 Elmwood Ave., as well as at 39 Allstate Insurance agency locations and at other participating sponsors across the area.
More than 1,000 girls from 60 schools are expected to be given a dress this year, and the Billonis try to make each one feel special. over the three day period, so that the last girl on the last day will have just as many choices in just as many sizes as the first girls to arrive.
Girls who can’t afford to purchase a prom dress can make arrangements through their schools to be part of the dress giveaway or may sign up online on the Gowns for Prom website. Seamstresses and tailors who would like to volunteer may also contact Gowns for Promthrough the website.
In addition to the donated used dresses, Gowns for Prom gives away new dresses from participating stores and shoes and purses.
One volunteer, Marlena Gagner, has been working with the Billoni’s for 10 years, providing beaded jewelry and also repairing beading on used dresses. She provides 500 each of beaded earrings sets, bracelets and necklaces.
Gagner told the Billonis that she was “one of those kids” who couldn’t afford a dress and her mother used drapes to make her one.
“Talk about ‘Gone with the Wind,’ ” laughed Cyndee Billoni. “She’s awesome with the girls and helps them find the perfect piece for that dress.”
Paul Billoni said his family’s dry cleaning business was struggling when he was growing up. Just a few relatives, plus his mom and dad, ran the shop. But he said the family still donated to their church and volunteered in the community.