CHESTER-The gowns that will be available for sale next Saturday at Chester First United Methodist Church are about as beautiful as anonymous can be.
Although gently used, the formal dresses featured at the "Gowns Galore" charity fundraiser look like new. The tags have only the size and the price-but not the name of the previous owner or her school.
"Gowns Galore" organizers know that some girls would not want to wear a dress from another school. "It's a girl thing," said Sherry Emery, who began "Gowns Galore" five years ago. "We know whose dress it is, but they don't."
Volunteer Vickie Ritts checks out a dress just brought in to the “Gowns Galore” charity fundraiser Saturday at Chester First United Methodist Church. It is one of the formal dresses that will be sold next Saturday at the church. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
Emery, a retired teacher, said the idea of selling used dresses and using the proceeds for charity had been in the back of her mind for a while. The first year for "Gowns Galore" had three racks of dresses. This year, there are 14 racks-with dresses ranging in size from 0 to 28 and ranging in price from $5 to $300.
On Saturday, mothers and daughters brought in gowns of all styles, colors and sizes. Dresses also will be collected at the church from 6-8 p.m. Monday. From 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 10, those dresses will be available for sale in the church basement. Only cash will be accepted.
"It gives the girl a chance to get a dress at a reasonable price. The dresses are beautiful. Nobody would know it's a used dress," Emery said. "And it helps people in need."
"Gowns Galore" is a mission project of First United Methodist Church, 240 Carolina Ave., Chester. Girls who bring in their dresses are charged a flat fee of $5. That money is donated to the Chester-Newell F.I.S.H. Foundation. Last year, "Gowns Galore" raised $2,000 for F.I.S.H. from 400 dresses.
Dress donors set their own price and collect the money if the dress sells. If the dress does not sell, the owner has the option to take it back or donate it to the church, Emery said.
Most of the dresses at "Gowns Galore" are prom dresses, but many also are appropriate for adult women for a variety of occasions, she said. Both long and short, they range in style from mermaid to princess to fit-and-flare.
Deanna Beardmore, of Greene Township, Pa., brought in three dresses on Saturday that her daughter had worn to three proms. "I paid too much money for them," she said.
Beardmore priced the dresses at less than half price, she said. "I think it's wonderful. They're not in your closet, and it gives everyone an opportunity," she said. "The gowns are nice-it's not like you're skimping on quality."
"Gowns Galore" gets dresses from school districts in Wellsville, East Liverpool, Weirton, Toronto and beyond, Emery said. Organizers hold the sale in the fall to capitalize on girls' shopping habits.
"All the girls like to shop now for their dresses for the spring," Emery said, noting that gowns for spring events usually go on sale in stores in December.
On Monday, many of the dresses will be available for viewing on the "Gowns Galore" Facebook page. Emery said it's fun to watch the girls and women try on dresses at the sale and walk away with something they like.
"We 'ooh' and 'aah' over all of them," she said.