By Anna Gustafson
Queens teenagers unable to afford the often hefty price tags that come with prom dresses received a helping hand in Bayside last weekend.
Members of the Bayside chapter of Becca’s Closet, a national nonprofit, set up shop in the basement of a Bayside apartment building Saturday and gave out free prom dresses to anyone who was able to find that perfect fit among the 85 gowns donated to the group.
“We know some girls can’t afford dresses because they’re so expensive, and we wanted to make them happy,” said Leni Matava, 15, a sophomore at the World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing and one of the founders of the Bayside chapter of Becca’s Closet.
Becca’s Closet was founded by the family of a Florida teen, Rebecca Kirtman, who died in a car accident in 2003. Kirtman had launched a dress drive and distributed hundreds of gowns before her death.
Matava and Stefani Greenstein, 15, also a sophomore at the Flushing high school, founded the Bayside chapter this year. They began in January to collect the donated dresses, which ranged from red to green, beaded to metallic and floral to lace. Students from throughout Queens gave the dresses, new and used, to the group, including a Girl Scout troop from the St. Mel School in Flushing. They also gave away jewelry forï»¿ the upcoming dances.
“We wanted girls to leave happy,” Greenstein said of Saturday’s event that was advertised in a number of Queens high schools. “We hope they have fun at their prom like any other girl.”
The two said it seemed especially timely to form the chapter this year in light of the tough economy.
“Instead of spending $300 on a dress, you can come here and get one for free and spend that $300 on something you really need,” Greenstein said.
The girls who attended Saturday’s event said they were appreciative of the chance to land a free gown, but did not want to give their names because of the stigma that can surround those who are not financially well-off.
“It’s a good way to save money,” said a senior from the World Journalism Preparatory School. “And then maybe if I get a dress, I could donate it for someone else.”
Another teenager from Bayside High School said she was ecstatic with the way a number of dresses fit her.
“It can be hard shopping for a dress,” she said.
Lori Matava, a Little Neck resident and Leni Matava’s mother, said they decided to hold the event after “so many girls” called their chapter asking if they had dresses.
“If I can get one girl to get a dress, I’ll be so happy,” said Lori Matava, who said she is now looking for help storing the remaining dresses for next year.
For more information or to donate a dress, visit beccascloset.org.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.