Gowns for Grads helps more students each year
With the grad season fast approaching, Gowns for Grads coordinators Karen Grudesky and Kristin Allan have so far provided about a dozen gowns to students in need of financial assistance, as well as selling gowns at reduced prices to students that want to be green.
“We’ve had four young gentlemen look at renting tuxedoes from three different tux rentals within the Olds-Red Deer-Sylvan Lake area,” said Grudesky.
Gowns for Grads was started by Grudesky in 2009. As a former family wellness worker in the Chinook’s Edge School Division, she had long been aware that some students would struggle to buy a gown or rent a tuxedo.
In 2010, Gowns for Grads helped seven girls and one guy. In 2011, the organization helped seven students get gowns for free, while 25 students were able to buy gowns at a third of the initial cost. Moreover, two male students were gifted tuxedo rentals.
“We see an increase every year. I think it’s just the awareness of what’s out there,” said Grudesky.
“The young fellows recognize that they are part of it. We will see an increase in young gentlemen as well.”
Thanks to word of mouth and the power of social media, gowns are being donated from all sides of the QEII Highway.
“Interestingly enough, the word has spread roughly from Edmonton to Calgary,” said Allan.
“People send gowns through relatives that are passing through or a friend that consigns at our store.”
Allan’s store reFind is the drop-off location for gowns. After receiving the gowns, Allan and Grudesky have them dry cleaned. Grudesky makes repairs if they are needed. The gowns are displayed at reFind, where clients can browse through them.
“We have been getting students from probably within an hour’s distance,” said Allan.
“We are trying to reach out as far as possible and work with as many schools as possible. There are students in need everywhere.”
While Gowns for Grads has received roughly 50 gowns so far, Allan expects the number to rise.
“A lot of people wait until grad is right upon us to donate their gowns,” she said.
“I think that a lot of people don’t realize how far ahead of time students are looking for their grad outfits.”
Allan also believes that more students will be coming to the store for free or discounted gowns.
“I know there are a few people that haven’t come out of the woodwork yet, because that’s happened the last couple of season,” she said.
“Maybe people are embarrassed, or they are upset about the situation. Maybe they don’t know about us yet or maybe they do and they just haven’t decided to come forward yet.”
Gowns for Grads has also received more funding this year, thanks to the support of local groups. The Olds College Hort Club donated proceeds from the sale of potted plants. The Word of Life Church organized an open-mike night fundraiser at Bean Brokers. Video Experts dedicated one of its Free Film Friday events to the organization.
“It was really helpful. Every bit helps,” said Allan.
“When you have a charity, every penny counts.”
Allan herself gives the proceeds from the sale of donated clothes to Gowns for Grads’ bank account.
Gowns will remain on display at reFind until the end of May. After that, they will be stored in the store’s basement.
“Out of season, people can still approach us,” said Allan.
“We could always go check out what’s down there if someone needs something off-season.”
For more information on Gowns for Grads, please consult the organization’s Facebook page or www.refindclothing.com under the consignment tab.