Ingram has spent the last several years prodding friends and neighbors and even strangers to check their closets for coats. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, he and four other locals founded C-U Mask Makers, which provided 15,000 free masks.
Taking inspiration from a Rossville, Illinois, resale shop that has given away hundreds of prom dresses over the years, former Champaign County Recorder of Deeds Mike Ingram has planned a prom dress giveaway in Champaign on April 16.
Twisted Sisters, the Vermilion County shop known far and wide as the “free prom dress” store, helps hundreds of high school students every year get outfitted for that high school rite of passage: prom.
“I’ve watched my aunts do amazing work over the years and have so frequently mentioned to people that if they’re struggling to cover prom costs that they should take a trip over to Rossville,” says Ingram. “But, of course, not everyone can easily make that trip. This year someone said ‘you should do something like that here because kids really need it.’ And something clicked.”
Saturday’s event is from 11am-7pm at 1422 S. Neil in Champaign, across from the Hilton Garden Inn.
Attendees from any local prom, including the UP Center’s ‘Queer Prom’, are welcome.
Donations can still be dropped off at Farren’s restaurant in downtown Champaign from 11am-9pm on Friday, and at the event space from 4-7pm on Friday. Saturday drop off during the event is allowed.
Items should be in good repair and clean.
Having locals do some spring cleaning of formal dresses, shoes, purses and more seemed like a natural next step.
“Prom can be stressful, not just on kids but on parents and families, too. There are so many expenses that can add up, and it’s hard when you’re not in a financial spot to do all of the things that your friends are doing,” Ingram said. “It’s great that some of the artifice of prom has disappeared in recent years, with kids feeling more comfortable going on their own terms or simply not treating it as the pinnacle of high school life.
“But for some it is still a rite of passage, or they just want to go in a look that they love. I found myself in a position to be able to help with that, so here we are.”
A social media campaign soliciting donations brought in several items, with downtown restaurant Farren’s offering itself as a drop-off location. Local group R Rentals offered up a location, and Christine Windelborn of Starshine Finds came onboard to help coordinate.
“It was a short ramp up, but we already have ideas for how we can make it even bigger next year,” said Windelborn, whose boutique donated dozens of items.