Prom night is fast approaching. For many young women, it’s a night of wonder. For others, it can be a time of embarrassment. With prom dresses running $500 to $1,000, many seniors simply cannot afford the extravagant gowns that have practically become required prom attire.
Siobhan Esposito, a North Shore High School junior, is working to change all that. Through the Long Island Volunteer Center’s Prom Boutique, she’s collecting new and gently used prom dresses to donate to young women in need.
This year, the boutique will benefit more than 1,500 seniors.
Esposito, 17, has volunteered for LIVC since 2015, collecting formal evening gowns and cocktail, wedding and prom dresses for young women from throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties. She was inspired to dig deep into the project after she attended the final distribution of prom dresses during her first year with the organization.
“Just seeing their reactions when they got their dresses was very moving,” she said. “I saw how much something that is so little for us could mean a lot for them.”
Esposito’s passion and effort have grown since that day. She posts fliers throughout the Sea Cliff community and shares news about the dress drive on Facebook to involve friends and family members. Their support, she said, has made volunteering fun and fulfilling. “I think this drive really brings people together,” she said. “The North Shore community is small, but to get everyone working towards this common goal is very cool.”
The Prom Boutique was adopted from the Junior League of Long Island, an organization of women volunteers based in Roslyn that was founded in 1951. Esposito’s mother, Kathleen Murphy, has been a board member with JLLI for 25 years. Kathleen said she was “amazed” to see her daughter’s dedication to volunteerism and credited North Shore Schools with promoting this kind of work. “Because her school district encourages volunteerism, the children can see how much they have when they are able to give to people who really have less than them,” she said.
The boutique is now approaching its 23rd anniversary. LIVC holds its dress distribution each spring, when youth groups from churches, schools and non-profit organizations that have collected prom dresses meet with parents and teens to help them search for the perfect gowns. For dresses that need repairs or alterations, there are seamstresses on hand.
Michele Esselborn, a LIVC volunteer, said, “It’s the beginning of women helping women. This is a part of that special bond we all share for us to come together as a team.”
Coming from a single-parent household, Esselborn understands the challenges that many families face in finding affordable prom dresses, which can put a damper on graduation celebrations for girls in a financial pinch. “It’s not about making myself feel good about volunteering,” she said. “It’s about how happy I can make someone else.”
She added that teenagers like Esposito paint a positive image for today’s youth. “It shows that there are people from the younger generation who recognize the needs of their fellow students,” she said.
It was only fitting that this year’s final dress distribution was held April 23, the first day of National Volunteer Week. Esposito, who has another year left in high school before she attends her own prom, continues to spread the word about the program.
“This is something that’s really special to me at this point,” she said. “I wish that more people could just see how much it really affects other people.”