By Jennifer L. Warren
MIDDLETOWN – It’s an inexplicable image engraved in Josephine Bloomfield’s mind: That brilliant glow in a girl’s eyes when she locates the perfect dress.
For the past two Sundays, inside of Middletown’s Temple Sinai, Bloomfield was treated to countless faces revealing that sheer joy. Here, over 300 high school students from all over the Hudson Valley had the special opportunity to select free formal wear, including prom and cocktail dresses, suits and tuxedos. Additionally, a wide assortment of accessories, such as, pocketbooks, shoes and makeup was available for the taking. The Annual Free Prom and Men’s Suit Extravaganza event, which featured over 1,000 donated dresses as well as 500 brand new ones, wielded a large crowd, one that this past Sunday was eagerly on hand two hours before doors were officially slated to open.
“I couldn’t believe how many kids were lined up so early,” said Bloomfield who is assisted by her husband Ed, along with Middletown’s United Presbytarian, Minisink Valley Rotary, the Men’s Club of Mount Sinai, as well as several, dedicated volunteers (one came as far away as Long Island.) “We have so many dresses here it actually looks like a store.”
The growing supply of formal wear merchandise is the result of the event’s growing popularity each year. Local organizations have noted the challenges of a rising number of teenagers to be able to afford the expenses involved in attending their Junior Ball or Senior Prom. Around 15 years ago, Bloomfield saw an opportunity to alleviate the stressors of getting those needed garments and accessories for spring high school occasions when she decided to gather the gowns she found herself wearing just one time.
“I thought: Why not put together an event where I can give all of these dresses away, so they go to use,” recalled Bloomfield. “Before the Pandemic, we even had fashion shows, so kids could see what the items looked like being worn; now, we just give them away, but it’s still just as wonderful and appreciated, and it keeps on growing.”
Advertising, such as on radio, in the newspaper and through social media as well as word of mouth has helped spike numbers. In fact the crowds were so impressive at times a couple of weeks ago, Bloomfield was hard pressed to contain her emotions.
“I couldn’t believe how many people were in here,” said Bloomfield. “There were so many kids, and they were incredibly excited, it actually made me dizzy, all in a good way; many of them could not afford to go to these once-in-a lifetime proms and balls without an event like this, and that makes it so important.”
Bloomfield wants to continue the altruistic and much needed gesture of providing these items to local teenagers in the Hudson Valley. Although the event is no longer formally happening, she still has hundreds of dresses, suits and other items available that she is very eager to provide to whoever is in need. She urges those who are interested to call her at: (845) 800-5359 to make an appointment to meet up with her, so she can provide whatever clothing and-or accessories will make attending a Prom or Ball more possible.
“It just makes me feel so happy to help these kids,” said Bloomfield. “So whatever I can do, I want to do it.”