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The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

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Paying dreams forward

The Women’s Club of Evanston’s Dreams Delivered program offers students a chance to wear the prom dress of their dreams at an affordable price
Paying+dreams+forward

With graduation just two months away, seniors at ETHS have a lot of monumental experiences ahead of them. For many, the most exciting of these is prom. With the chance to make lasting memories and dance the night away with close friends, prom can be a big deal. Often, students dress to impress for the celebration. This tradition can be exciting, but it can also be hard for people who don’t have the means for formal attire or don’t want to spend money on something that they potentially won’t wear again. That is why the Women’s Club of Evanston started their Dreams Delivered program which annually transforms their clubhouse into a boutique, supplying students with free dresses and accessories for prom. This allows anyone, regardless of their financial status, to get the outfit of their dreams for the big night.

The Women’s Club of Evanston has been an important part of the community since their founding in 1889. With their purpose of creating beneficial change to Evanston, they provide philanthropic grants to improve the city and put in hours of community service work each year. 

The Club developed their Dreams Delivered program in 2007. Their members believed that all students regardless of their means should have the ability to attend their senior prom in style. They thought if they provided students a free and accessible way to get attire, then more high school students would feel comfortable and confident attending. After serving 40 students from ETHS with their first Dreams Delivered event, the members realized how special their new program really was. They decided to partner with the Delta Chi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which has been around for over seventy five years and works towards improving their community and implementing Alpha Kappa Alpha programs in their area. Both groups had similar philanthropic morals and an appreciation for partnering with other organizations, so they joined together in order to help even more students. This partnership has been going strong for seventeen years.

Preparation for the yearly Dreams Delivered event takes a lot of hard work from members of the club and from supporters in the community. Although the boutique’s doors won’t open until mid-April, work for the event starts months in advance.

A collection drive is held from Feb. 8 to March 13 where people can donate new or lightly used dresses, fancy shoes, sparkly jewelry and accessories. This is beneficial not only to the organization but also to people who have past prom attire and don’t know what to do with it. Dreams Delivered gives their clothes a new purpose. 

“I love that we can help students feel absolutely beautiful and outfitted for prom while we’re still keeping clothing out of landfills, which is one of the biggest contributors to landfill issues in our world,” stated Erin Booker, co-chair of the Dreams Delivered program.

Aside from donating clothes, shoes, and accessories, people can donate money as well. This allows Dreams Delivered to round out their collection to ensure that they have a variety of dress and shoe sizes and an array of jewelry options.

Evanston businesses including Soapies, Hoosier Mama Pie and Byline Bank offer up their locations as collection sites for Dreams Delivered. However, you don’t have to be a business to help out. Second Baptist Church also provides its space as a collection spot. There are also locations in Wilmette and Chicago.

After the collection process, the awareness phase of Dreams Delivered begins. One way awareness is spread is through marketing.

“We have posters and marketing everywhere, social media as well as print marketing to engage the community,” described Booker.

News of the program is also spread through promotions. Stella’s Boutique hosts a week where they donate 20 percent of their sales to the Dreams Delivered program.

One of the main ways students find out is through a fashion show held at ETHS during the Senior Assembly.

This year, Kara Taylor, an ETHS senior and daughter of a former Women’s Club president, is aiding the Dreams Delivered program by helping organize the fashion show and recruiting student models. This show helps preview the fashions available to the students through Dreams Delivered to encourage them to utilize the program.

“People who think that they can’t go to prom because they don’t have the accessories or they don’t have the dress or all of the expenses that prom takes get to see that there is something to help them,” said Taylor.

Any student who wants to attend Dreams Delivered must schedule an appointment. This year the event takes place from April 14 through the 16th. Each appointment lasts two hours, and each day has three to four available start times. Making an appointment is necessary to ensure that the members of the Women’s Club and the Delta Chi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority can prepare for each guest that arrives.

In time for the opening of the Dreams Delivered event, the Women’s Club is completely transformed into a prom boutique, creating the perfect dress-shopping experience.

 “We have tried to keep an individualized white glove feeling for all of our students so that they feel like they are walking into a boutique and that they are the number one person and that we’re so absolutely thrilled that they’re there,” explained Booker.

Tables are covered with an array of shoes in all styles and heights. Racks are filled with dresses by size and color, and there are rows of dressing rooms and mirrors. 

When students schedule an appointment, there are some expectations. They must arrive on time and present a valid student ID.

Students can bring one guest alongside them to their Dreams Delivered experience, however it is perfectly fine to come on their own. Either way, they will have a personal shopper by their side. The shoppers escort students through the process of shopping, alterations and then beauty.

In addition to getting free clothing, shoes and accessories, Dreams Delivered supplies additional services to students when they arrive. Students from Tricolor University of Beauty Culture are available onsite for hair and makeup consultations. Awesome Balloon Creations donates a balloon arch to Dreams Delivered so students can use it as a backdrop for photos once they are done picking out their attire. Local business Kenny the Kleener provides dry cleaning services to ensure the dresses look their best. 

When prom is over students can keep any of the items they selected, or they can donate them back to Dreams Delivered to be used for the following year.

“It really warms my heart to know that we’re kind of paying it forward to our environment,” shared Booker. 

What is special about the Dreams Delivered event is the dedication from members of  the Delta Chi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the Women’s Club who work very hard to ensure everyone who walks through the boutique’s doors is thrilled with their experience.

“We’re committed to the students and where they’re at, so we pivot based on their needs, whether it’s the fashion, students prefer longer dresses or shorter dresses or they want different kinds of opportunities to shop,” stated Booker. 

The event’s inclusivity also deserves recognition. Anyone, regardless of any financial status, gender, clothing or shoe size, is encouraged to take advantage of the resources of the Dreams Delivered program. It is barrier-free, and the people organizing and working for the program truly want everyone to feel like they can use it if they desire.

“We have such a wide range of people’s economic statuses here in Evanston, so I think that making it inclusive so that everyone can feel their best selves at such a big event is really important, ” explained Taylor.

The Dreams Delivered program is a treasured experience. If you are a senior and you are interested in utilizing their services you should definitely sign up. Once you have your prom look finished, you can focus on what’s important: making it a night to remember.

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About the Contributor
Rory Lehman, Digital Staff Member, Staff Writer
Hi, my name is Rory Lehman (she/her/hers) and I am a writer for Arts and Entertainment and a videographer for the Social section. I am a freshman and I am really looking forward to my first year working on The Evanstonian. I have loved to write since a very young age, and after writing for my middle school’s newspaper I knew I wanted to continue to strengthen my journalism skills in high school. Beyond The Evanstonian, I play on the ETHS Girls Frosh Tennis Team, and am a member of Student Council. In my free time I love to channel my inner Rory Gilmore and read, write, and go to coffee shops with friends!
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    Jaren DavisMar 15, 2024 at 12:10 pm

    Great work Rory! Very informative and interesting.

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