Brookhaven Town is giving away 1,000 prom dresses to help high school girls lacking the financial means to attend their schools' most important dance.

The dresses line a room on the second floor of Town Hall and will be given away through June as part of the town's youth bureau program.

Officials say the dresses will be donated anonymously and are intended for needy families.

The program started 15 years ago. Last year, 400 dresses were donated.

"Proms are expensive," said Diana Weir, Brookhaven Town commissioner of housing and human services, whose department oversees the program.

"By the time you buy the dress, shoes and limo, it becomes really expensive."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The dresses come from donations from boutiques such as Patchogue-based Paradise Bridals and Tuxedos, which donated about 75 dresses this year collectively worth between $15,000 and $22,000.

"It's like Cinderella not being able to go to the ball," said Rosie Burdo, an employee at the bridal store.

"We want to make sure every girl gets to experience her prom, and not going because you don't have a dress is tragic."

Burdo estimates that proms cost between $250 and $500 once the dress, accessories, jewelry and hair and makeup are calculated. Limo rentals are on top of that.

"We have a lot of people who have had some tough circumstances and who can't afford a prom dress. This is an opportunity to come get a dress at no expense to them," said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine.


To draw attention to the giveaway, the youth bureau sent fliers to all of Brookhaven's school districts, informing them of the free gowns, all of which are dry cleaned before being given away.

Longwood High School Principal Maria Castro expressed happiness for the girls who will benefit, saying, "It is comforting to know that they can find beautiful and stylish dresses for the occasion."

Earlier this week, a few school girls from several districts looked through the assortment of dresses in Town Hall. They tried on several, making sure they fit before making their decisions.

Besides the dresses, some shoes, jewelry, makeup and perfumes are also available at no cost and can be viewed in the same room.

"Girls come in with an 'I don't know if I'm going to the prom' look on their faces and leave elated. It puts a smile on their faces," said Josephine Lunde, the program's coordinator.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"Everybody wants to be a princess and look beautiful. But in this economic climate, there isn't money. This is a little bit of a luxury and it fits a need," Weir said.

To look at the prom dresses, appointments can be made Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call 631-451-8011.