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Group helps prom-goers dress in style

Cleaners CEO Arthur Anton Jr. and Mary Lou Andre. Cleaners CEO Arthur Anton Jr. and Mary Lou Andre.
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March 16, 2008

Mary Lou Andre vividly remembers the dress she happily wore to her junior prom at Foxborough High School: a full-length mauve gown with spaghetti straps and a little cape tied at the back. Now Andre, author of "Ready to Wear" and founder of the website dressingwell.com, is helping other girls find the prom dress of their dreams.

Andre, founder and president of Organization by Design of Needham, has been involved with Tewksbury-based Anton's Cleaners' Belle of the Ball program since its inception four years ago. Through April 15, prom dresses may be donated to all Massachusetts and New Hampshire locations of Jordan's Furniture and Anton's Cleaners, where they are dry-cleaned for free.

On April 26, girls from local schools who have been prescreened and approved for eligibility are paired with personal shopper volunteers, under Andre's direction, who will assist them in selecting just the right dress at a "boutique" at Simmons College in Boston. The girls will also consult with hair and make-up artists and enjoy music, refreshments, raffles, and goodie bags.

Donated dresses may be any size but must be free of damage and should not be more than four years old so they will still be trendy. According to Andre, extra small and extra large sizes are especially needed, with age-appropriate, colorful gowns most popular. During last season's drive, area women donated more than 3,700 dresses.

"Our volunteers are trained to help give these girls an experience they'll remember for a lifetime," said Andre, who lives in Needham. "For anyone who donates a dress, there's an instant impact. The dress is going to be worn at a real prom by a real person who otherwise couldn't go. This whole event is about confidence and kindness, wrapped up in one."

For more information, visit antons.com/belle.

CINDY CANTRELL

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