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Program offers free prom dresses in Pine River

Donations of dresses still being accepted.

Dressed in kindness.JPG
Pine River-Backus High School teacher Rebecca Stabenow talks with students who stop by to try on prom dresses through her new program "Dressed in Kindness" on Friday, March 18, 2022.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

PINE RIVER — With prom right around the corner, one Pine River-Backus teacher has started a program to provide an option for those not ready to spend hundreds or even over $1,000 on a prom dress.

"With everything that's going on in the world right now, that is so negative," said Pine River-Backus High School teacher Rebecca Stabenow. "I figured this would be one way that I could share a little positivity and happiness and in our classroom and community and give back."

Teacher helps students look through dresses.
Pine River-Backus High School teacher Rebecca Stabenow helps students look through donated prom dresses as part of her new "Dressed in Kindness" program on Friday, March 18, 2022.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

The idea for her program, "Dressed in Kindness," came to her out of the blue.

"I was actually at the thrift store in town and I saw a dress and thought it would be fun to buy that and start getting dresses for the girls," Stabenow said. "And that's what kind of triggered it. And, I have a 7 year old who loves to try them on so she's been having fun with that."

Stabenow used word of mouth and Facebook posts to request prom dresses that she could offer to girls attending prom.

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"I just thought it would be nice to do that," Stabenow said. "It spreads kindness and positivity."

Stabenow estimates that dresses cost $100 on up, often reaching the $900 range or higher.

"I think my little sister paid $1,200 for hers," Stabenow said. "And it's worn once. Sometimes they can resell them."

As of Friday, March 18, Stabenow estimated they had received at least 40 dresses from people as far away as Brainerd. The dresses are of all different shapes, sizes and styles. They are available to girls from Pine River-Backus, Pequot Lakes, Walker, Brainerd or other schools.

Stabenow isn't the only player in the game either. Both Crystal Cleaners and Anderson Cleaners, both in Brainerd, agreed to provide dry cleaning for the dresses at no cost.

"I was pretty excited to hear that someone was putting something together like this," said Carla Bahr, owner of Anderson Cleaners. "We've kind of tossed around the idea of something like that being a great idea, and there being a need for it. I was excited that she reached out to us so we could be a part of it. It's definitely a good cause."

Bahr said this will be her first program like this in her seven years owning the company, and she is excited to possibly be involved in more in the future.

Crystal Cleaners has participated in similar programs in the past, including for schools in Staples, Crosby, Brainerd, McGregor and others. They've also cleaned suits for people needing to make a good impression. And they are the dry cleaner for the annual Coats for Kids program.

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"We are excited to be involved and help with cleaning the dresses for the community," said owner Susan Bricker. "It's just a pleasure to help. We're very community oriented and want to help the girls in the community."

This will be Stabenow's only year organizing the program through the school, as she has resigned from her current position effective at the end of the school year. She said she will continue the program next year unless someone else wants to take it over.

Stabenow said she might like the donations in the future to include accessories, or services like hair and makeup.

"It's a big day," Stabenow said. "There's a lot that goes into it and it's a memory they will have forever. I graduated from Pine River-Backus High School and I remember going to prom as a ninth-grader with my neighbor and it was a blast."

Donations are being accepted until March 31 at Pine River-Backus High School. Girls will pick up their dresses from 3:20-4:30 p.m. Friday, April 1, in Room 18, along with a coupon for dry cleaning.

Proms are scheduled April 30 for both Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes schools.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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