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One Dress at a Time

by Valerie Esposito

in focus meaghan chambers main

Meaghan Chambers ’13 (Photo by Robert Amsler)

There are currently more than 20 million high school-aged students in the U.S., many of whom share a very common goal — to have the time of their lives at their high school proms. For some, it is an easily attainable goal that includes traveling to the store and purchasing the prom dress (or tuxedo) of their choice. For others, attending the prom can be more difficult when it is a struggle to afford the necessities so many of us take for granted.

In 2005, Operation PROM, a national not-for-profit organization, was established to help students in need attend their proms at little or no cost by providing free prom dresses and tuxedo rentals. Since then it has expanded to include regular donations of clothing and school supplies to students who are sick, homeless or live in shelters.

During her senior year at St. Joseph’s College, Meaghan Chambers ’13 was searching online for an organization that would accept her donation of formal dresses when she discovered Operation PROM. What she also discovered was the need for a Long Island chapter that would serve both Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“I had a wonderful prom experience. My friends and I had the best time that night and I will never forget it,” Meaghan said. “Those memories made me want to give other girls the opportunity to enjoy themselves as much as I did.”

So, she decided to establish her own chapter by contacting Noel D’Allacco, founder and president of Operation PROM. After completing an application and phone interview, Meaghan was approved by the board of directors at Operation PROM and started working toward her mission.

“When I spoke to Meaghan, I could tell she would be dedicated to Operation PROM,” Ms. D’Allacco said. “Meaghan is a go-getter with a warm personality and positive attitude. It is so important to have young people on our team, making a difference in their communities. Meaghan is just the type of person we look for at Operation PROM.”

Since then, Meaghan has turned her Lindenhurst home into an Operation PROM headquarters, with a constant stream of volunteers, interns (including SJC senior Stefanie Tartaro ’13) and dresses flowing in and out.

“I have always been involved with community service projects, so simply donating dresses didn’t seem like enough to me,” Meaghan said. “I personally felt that I needed to do something on a larger scale. The most rewarding part about Operation PROM is having the ability to make someone’s prom dreams come true. Knowing they will have those memories to cherish all because of our team and our mission is a wonderful feeling.”

As a student, Meaghan switched paths a few times before finding her niche as a communications studies major. She was also an active member of the Zeta Sigma Phi Sorority, the Orientation Team, Nicaragua Project, Art Club and Go Green Club. Even with her extensive list of extracurricular activities and a full class load, Meaghan graduated from the Long Island Campus in December 2012, one semester early. She is currently preparing her graduate school applications, although she hopes to return to SJC to earn an M.S. in Human Resources Management.

“St. Joseph’s was the best fit for me and I loved being involved in the college community,” Meaghan said. “The classes were interesting and every teacher I had was so helpful and influential on the path I had chosen.”

By hosting events and accepting private donations, she hopes to one day be able to provide dresses for every girl in need on Long Island. Meaghan finds her greatest challenge to be space for storing the dresses she has received and is currently seeking donated storage space from local businesses. Her Long Island chapter of Operation PROM partnered with SJC’s Diamond Club to host dress collection drives throughout the month of February. Private donations can be arranged by contacting Meaghan directly at meaghan@helpprom.org.

“SJC is a wonderful school with so many opportunities to have fun while networking at the same time,” Meaghan said. “I would advise each and every student to get involved with community service projects, both on and off campus. They offer a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that paying jobs just cannot give you.”

 

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