MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - Graduation is generally seen as a wonderful experience that marks the passage of a young person from a child to an adult.
However, for lower income families, being able to pay for the cost of a grad dress or tuxedo can be very stressful. Thanks to a program by the Didsbury Elks, no graduating Mountain View County student will be without this year.
The Elks are starting a Gowns for Grad program, which provides formal gowns, men's suits, and accessories free of charge to students in the area who would otherwise be unable to afford them.
The Gowns for Grad is a non-profit community service organization, said Margo Ward, with the Didsbury Elks.
"We collect donations of new and like-new formal gowns, accessories, men's suits, shirts and shoes and provide them free of charge to our high school students who would otherwise be unable to attend their formal events,” said Ward.
Ward said it's so important for graduates to be able to have confidence and self-esteem and attend their formal events in style, regardless of financial situation.
"While the girls may be focused on their dress, we are focused on them," she said. "Our mission is for each student to be treated with respect, grace and love, and to look their best on graduation day. On the event day, we surround the students with positive role models and show them grace and love for being them - no strings attached."
Ward said the program is available to any graduating students in Mountain View County.
"We welcome all students from the county and celebrate them as they learn about what defines true beauty," she said.
Ward said they came up with the program after seeing the success of the Gowns4Grads Program in Sherwood Park.
"We thought this would be an incredible way to serve our young graduates in our own community," she said. "We began to make plans to provide a prom outreach that supplies all the prom necessities for these students, free of charge."
Ward said that although the program is called Gowns for Grad, they are also collecting suits so that young men are also able to participate.
Gowns for Grad will have three different dates in the new year where graduates can come by and pick up items.
"Our Gowns for Grad are high-energy events open to senior high school girls, guys and escorts, in the county of Mountain View, where we give away gowns, suits and accessories," she said. "All items are theirs to keep."
The dates and times are: Jan. 25, 2020 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Jan. 29 from 7 to 9 p.m.; and Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. All at the Didsbury Elks Hall.
Ward said the organization is collecting various items for the graduates but the biggest need is suits in all sizes and prom dresses in size 0-22.
The following items are needed:
- prom dresses (short and long)
- jewelry appropriate for a special event
- formal shoes
- formal handbags
- suits/suit jackets/shirts
- men's shoes
- storage boxes
- display items to hang the suits, gowns, etc.
Donation guidelines are that all prom/formal dresses and suits must be five years old or newer with no visible stains or tears and in new or like-new condition. Dresses and suits do not need to be dry cleaned.
Anyone with something to donate can call Terry Read at 403-556-0882 or Joan Hannah at 403-335-4511 and they will arrange for pickup or drop-off of your donations, said Ward.