PAWTUCKET – A member of the Pawtucket School Committee, Joanne Bonollo says she loves the students of Pawtucket and is willing to do anything she can for them. But it breaks her heart, she says, that some students in the city’s high schools are unable to attend prom, homecoming, or other school functions because they lack a dress to fit the event.

She’s hoping to change that over the next month, as she and a group of local women are launching a prom gown and cocktail dress clothing drive, which starts Feb. 17 and runs through March 10.

In an attempt to make proms, homecomings, and award ceremonies special for city students, the group of women from Pawtucket are asking their fellow residents and family and friends from neighboring communities to join the first-ever prom and cocktail dress drive. Bonollo says they are looking for gowns and cocktail dresses of all styles, colors, and sizes. Clothing contributed must be clean and in excellent condition and accessories in similar condition will also be accepted.

“Oh, it’d be huge, it’d be huge...” Bonollo said of the ability to provide girls with dresses for prom season. “They don’t have it, their parents don’t have it, if they’re going off to college it’s not money that’s easily there.

For a girl, it’s so important. It may be a decision of whether they go to prom or don’t go to prom if they don’t have anything to wear.”

While there’s no set goal for how many dresses she’d like to see collected, Bonollo says “the more the merrier.”

“I just want to make it available because we have the freshman proms and the sophomore proms and there’s a lot of different events that are happening,” she said. “It’s more than just prom, that’s why I included cocktail dresses. Not everyone wants to wear a gown.”

“They have homecoming dances and award ceremonies, they want to dress up and the money may not be there,” she added. “I love my kids in the schools, anything I can do for them I will. This is just a way to give back.”

Starting on Feb. 17, dresses will be accepted at two drop-off locations: Howell Smith Pharmacy and Gift Shop at 749 Central Ave. and The Empowerment Factory, located at 999 Main St., #707.

“Howell Smith is a mom-and-pop community business, they’re in my neighborhood, they’re in a main location. I’ve been going to them for 25 or 30 years or more. They care about this community, they’ve always been active in it,” she said. “They’ve revised their gift shop. I thought it would be nice two-fold, to come in and see the new changes in the community. I love shopping there. It would help our schools and let more people know about the store that’s there because a lot of people don’t know.”

“The Empowerment Factory, they have a lot of activities, craft classes, things people don’t know about. Gail (Ahlers) is a wonderful woman, she’s always active in the community, always helped our kids,” Bonollo continued. “I thought those would be two good locations. People that I know care and work hard for our community.”

Questions about donations or the donation process can be sent to

Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter: @J_Bissonnette

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