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When Lisa Easter learned there were local families who couldn’t afford to keep their homes let alone send their daughters to prom, she took it upon herself to make a difference.

The Solomons woman decided to collect old and unused high school prom dress donations earlier this spring, spread the word to the community and on April 14 held an event at the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad for teenage girls to come and browse the donated gowns. More than 250 dresses went home with area high school teens free of charge.

“Times are really tough for a lot of families in the area, and proms are expensive,” Easter said. The minimum price of a prom dress typically runs at least $100, she said.

Easter called the event “extremely successful,” and credited it to the publicity she gave it. She held a similar event in Mechanicsville in March but no one showed. So she tried again, only this time she advertised the Prince Frederick event on local news websites and high school Facebook pages, and she pulled in other people from her church, Southern Calvert Baptist, and from the community.

“At first I thought they’d feel ashamed about getting secondhand clothes, but we handed out some that were $1,100, custom-made — for free,” Easter said. “Eighty-percent still had tags on them. They probably were thinking we just had some old 1980s bridesmaid dresses, but when they saw these dresses they were very excited.”

The dresses ranged in style and from size 00 to 22 so “girls of all sizes were able to pick out a dress they loved. Some of the ones I didn’t think would move, people took them.

“A lot of girls came up and gave me a hug. They were very appreciative, which is nice to see coming from teenagers.”

In addition to donating dresses, some local businesses donated raffle prizes, Easter said. Cindi Murphy of Photography by Cindi, in Mechanicsville, donated a free senior portrait photo shoot; Shannon DiMichele, a local licensed cosmetologist in Lusby, donated a free highlighting; and Michelangelo’s Salon and Spa of Lusby and Huntingtown raffled off a free up-do.

Easter said Michelangelo’s manager Lisa Davis was “definitely a big help” in getting the word out to the community, and Davis said she was only too happy to help when she saw Easter visit the Lusby salon with a flier for the event.

“When I saw the cause I could not help but want to be involved,” Davis said. Between the cost of the prom itself, the limo ride and the dress, “I know it’s very hard when prom season comes. So I took the flier and threw it into motion.”

Davis asked her staff of roughly 45 employees to bring in their dresses, placed signs around the Lusby Town Square and hung “one of the most beautiful dresses donated” on a coat rack front and center, and as expected, it encouraged clients to ask questions.

“The next thing I knew the community went wild,” she said.

Between her two locations in each end of the county, Davis collected 72 dresses, most of which still had tags, for Easter to give away at the event.

“The outpour from the ladies in the community, I could not thank them enough,” Davis said. “People who don’t even come to the salon donated, so that was really, really nice. It shows how the community still comes together in these hard times. We just want to thank everybody.”

Davis added that she was moved by the girl who won the free up-do.

“Her mother was telling [Easter] all these things. They were about to lose their house,” she said. “It’s good to see the girl who won it needed it.”

Easter received so many dresses she said she opened the event up to eighth-graders looking for eighth grade formal dresses and to military wives looking for military ball gowns. There were still about 40 dresses left over, which the PFVRS gave away at its yard sale on Saturday, she said.

She will probably do it again next year, getting the word out even earlier, she said.

mrussell@somdnews.com