By Amanda Duncombe-Lee
Ten years ago, Lochlin resident Jenn Abbott donated a prom dress to a local youth looking for one, and it sparked an idea for something bigger.
“That’s how it started – I loved the idea. I got the ball rolling and created a name and a Facebook page, and it kind of exploded from there,” she said.
Make Dreams Come True is a volunteer service run out of Abbott’s home that offers free clothing and accessories to graduating students needing formal wear.
The dresses, suits and accessories (including shoes, jewelry, belts and hats) are available to Grade 8, Grade 12, and Adult Education students from Haliburton County who need them for graduation, prom, or semi-formal.
The homeschooling mother of four estimates that she gets requests from between 15-20 students per year, and that numbers have been climbing as clothing and transportation costs increase.
“People don’t want to go out and buy a suit or dress they might only wear once or twice,” she said. “There’s a lot of need for it. It’s hard to go grad shopping because there’s nothing up here, and people have to travel, and it’s expensive.”
“It’s been going strong. We’re now in our tenth year.”
In the past, Abbott set up the service in local community centres and service clubs as a one-day event where people could visit to donate or pick up dresses and suits. She now runs the service from her home in Lochlin.
“Since Covid, and because I’m a one man show, we do it differently,” said Abbott. “I start pulling out everything from storage in March and April. The second people can get me their colour and size, and the specifics of what they’re looking for, I go through what I have and there might be five options in the bag. Whatever outfits they choose not to keep, they bring back.”
The Make Dreams Come True service offers a free goody bag that includes jewellery, makeup and sunglasses, and a free 25-minute family photo session with Chantal Smith, who has provided photography services since the initiative started ten years ago. Abbott also arranges for students to get their nails and hair done with participating local businesses.
She said students usually find what they want because of the large variety of donated materials in her storage – around 1000 dresses, suits, and shoes. Some of the donations are unused, with price tags attached. Alterations can be arranged at a cost.
Abbott said the service is only possible thanks to the donations of products and services by businesses and individuals.
“This is community giving back to the community. Without businesses and individuals donating their time and doing the things that they do, it wouldn’t be possible.”
Abbott accepts clothing and accessory donations in good, clean condition any time of year and welcomes donations from individuals living outside the County.
She urges interested students and parents to contact her as soon as they know their clothing preferences so she can go through the options in her inventory.
Donors, parents and students can contact her through the Make Dreams Come True Facebook page, or text her at 705-286-0906.