Prom dress giveawayIf the dress fits, the San Benito County teenager can take home free attire for one of the most classic high school social events: prom.

“It’s just outrageous how expensive dresses are,” said Nikki Vineyard, a Hollister resident whose two daughters attend San Benito High School.

Vineyard, a single mother, spent $800 on two dresses last year, she said. That price excluded money paid to a hair stylist, $90 dance bids for the couple, painted nails, shoes and other accessories.

Vineyard, her longtime friend, Allison Garcia, along with Amanda Hernandez and Diane Diaz Hopkins started a project where they collect gently used prom dresses and give them away to high school students in need of prom attire. While this type of project has existed in Hollister in the past, it’s a first for this group of volunteers.

The dresses have been collected at the Diane Diaz Hopkins Insurance office, which is located at 899 San Benito St., not far from the high school where many soon-to-be prom attendees spend their days in class. The evening clothes will be given out from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 17 at the same location.

Garcia, who has been friends with Vineyard since high school, does not have daughters but is still committed to making prom accessible for local teens. Garcia is the mother of two young boys, who are 3-years-old and 6-years-old. The petite Garcia wore jeans, a striped turtleneck and dark glasses Monday morning, as she sorted through donations in the top room at the insurance office. Garcia happens to wear the same dress size as Vineyard’s daughters, and they have been known to swap clothes.

Garcia’s goal is to collect at least 50 dresses. As she moved hangers along a movable rack in the upstairs room, she quietly counted the apparel in pink, blue and silver hues. There were 33 dresses in the room, with another 20 expected to arrive soon, Garcia explained.

There are so many girls out there that probably need dresses, Garcia said. The volunteers serve as a liaison between them and others, who have formal attire hanging in their closet that they’ve only used once or twice.

While the group is not a nonprofit, the women have reached out to community members to make the day extra special. The four-women volunteer team has also contacted the Chamberlain’s Children Center, Esperanza Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates and Child Protective Services to let the groups know about the project, Vineyard said.

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“We’re going to try to make it annual and keep giving them away,” Vineyard said.

Originally, the volunteers weren’t sure where to direct dress donations but Diaz Hopkins, who established the Hollister-based insurance company that bears her name, stepped forward and offered a convenient collection spot at her office in the heart of downtown Hollister.

As part of the giveaway event, the women will also raffle off donated hair and makeup styling services the day of the dance.

The goal is to eventually make the event “huge,” Garcia said. They want to give out not just the dress, but hair styling services, shoes, and a ride in a limo or an old fashioned car, Garcia said. The women plan to keep the word out about the project and eventually have donated dresses available for graduation and winter ball, Vineyard explained.

To donate a dress, shoes or accessories, bring the items to the insurance office between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The women are also looking for a permanent storage site for any dresses that are not claimed during the giveaway event. They also need volunteers to pair with high school students to help them look for the dress of their dreams.

“Kinda like a personal shopper,” Garcia said.

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