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home : braidwood journal : braidwood journal February 5, 2016

1/18/2011 10:59:00 PM
Making memories, remembering friends
Marney Simon
Staff writer

When a girl dreams of her perfect prom dress, it rarely involves picking anything out at the hardware store. But the folks who run the Whitmore Ace Hardware stores hope to find a way to blend the two together, in memory of a lost young employee and her friend.

Laurie Becker is the manager of the Whitmore Ace Hardware in Braidwood. This year, Laurie has helped to put together the inaugural "Melissa's Closet and Crystal's Jewelry Box" event, in memory of Reed-Custer High School students Melissa Michalowski and Crystal Carr. The teens were killed in a car accident in December 2008. Before her death, Melissa was an employee at Whitmore's.

"We always wanted to do something in Melissa's name and this would be really perfect," Becker said. "She was just an adorable, sweet little girl that came in here every day with a smile on her face. So we wanted to do something in memory of her."

Becker said that in honor of the girls, who were high school seniors when they passed, the store decided to do something to help out area high school students looking forward to a major rite of passage: Prom.

Becker said that the kids in Braidwood and the surrounding towns work hard to earn cash to pay for prom dresses to make the night special. But sometimes the cost is just too great. Becker said the idea of the prom dress drive is to find quality, fashionable and affordable dresses, jewelry and handbags for the kids who work hard all year for this night of fun and dancing.

Two Hounds

"We decided we would do a prom dress drive," Becker said. "I thought, how great, everyone's got prom dresses in their closets or bridesmaids dresses, something that you don't know what to do with. And what a great thing to give it to the kids so that they're not spending $200 on a prom dress. We just wanted to do something for Melissa."

Becker admits that a hardware store isn't exactly the kind of venue people think of when they think of formal wear. But, since the stores often employ area teens, they thought it was a great place to get the word out.

"We thought this was kind of a crazy place to do a prom dress drive, but we have four stores; in Manhattan, Manteno, Wilmington and Braidwood," Becker said. "If this could evolve every January to try to do a dress drive we could move it to more schools. Maybe next year move it to Wilmington, see how it goes. The kids here got so excited. They just thought, this is a great idea."

Whitmore's is accepting prom dress donations at all of their locations from now until Feb. 28. Each dress donated earns a $5 Whitmore gift card, or a student bringing in a dress will get a certificate to exchange it for a free dress from the dress drive. The drive will end with a "store" at Reed-Custer High School on March 9.

"They're going to go in and shop," Becker said. "We asked for a $5 donation just in case we have to dry clean any of the dresses, and next year when we do this we can pay for the dry cleaning. We just figured it's worth a shot, if we get dresses then the kids won't have to spend a fortune on them. It's just to provide the kids with an option other than to go out and buy a new dress."

Whitmore Ace Hardware is asking that prom and formal dresses be dry cleaned and on hangers. Accessories, such as earrings, necklaces, bracelets and bags, should be stylish, clean and in excellent condition. Becker said the stores are hoping to collect dresses from 2005 to this year's fashions in excellent to gently used condition in all fabrics, sizes and colors. While the prom dress drive is being held in the Reed-Custer school district, it is not limited to RCHS students. Becker said students from other towns are welcome to donate and to come pick out a dress themselves for the big event.

Becker said the drive is just a way to help out today's kids, while keeping the memories of two lost friends alive.

"We have such great kids," Becker said. "These guys are all working to get themselves to prom and homecoming. These kids really work for it. There's a need in these communities to help these kids out. I think that's something we can do for them."

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Article comment by: PK

Is there a strict policy on the year the dress was purchased? I have many bridesmaid, prom, and formal dresses of all sorts and I would like to donate them or at least let you look at them to decide if they are worthy or not. They are all cleaned and on hangers. Thanks :)

Pamela Kohlhagen

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