Lourdes Hospital collecting prom gowns for Camden high school students

Deb Bokas, director of Social Services (left) and Carissa Fleming, a social work intern at Lourdes, pose with two donated dresses in last year's prom dress drive. This year the hospital is taking donations through April 15.

Five years ago Diane Hines-Cooper, seamstress and teacher at Brimm Medical Arts High School, noticed some female students weren’t going to prom because they couldn’t afford the dress that goes along with the big dance.

So Hines-Cooper teamed up with Lourdes Medical Associates/Osborn Family Health Center, a part of the Lourdes Health System, to hold a prom gown drive. It brought in about 40 gowns that first year.

Last year community members donated 455 clean, wearable gowns or dressy cocktail-length dresses and organizers are hoping for even more this time around. Prom accessories including shoes, handbags and jewelry are also welcome through April 15. 

“When parents bring their daughters to choose a gown, they can’t believe it’s free,” said Hines- Cooper. “Some parents are almost in tears. You can see the relief and appreciation in their faces. I always tell my students you don’t live until you learn to give, and this is a great example of how much it means when people can work together to make a difference in the community.”

Gowns can be dropped off at 1601 Haddon Avenue, Camden during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. If large groups want to arrange gown pick up they should contact Deborah Bokas at 856-757-3542.

In coming weeks, Camden high school students from across the district will be able to set up times to go to Brimm to choose gowns and have them fitted with free alterations done by Hines-Cooper.

“There must be a gazillion gowns out there that people wear one time,” said Deborah Bokas, director of Social Services at Lourdes, who co-organizes the drive. “ It’s really a waste of money especially when you look at the selection in past years, we’re talking high fashion, designer names, some brand new with labels still on.”

-Julia Terruso