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Saying ‘Yes’ to the dress

Anyone approaching Venture X of Bethlehem early that particular Saturday morning could not help but notice the 100 plus high school girls lined up patiently waiting for the doors to open. Inside volunteers were putting the final touches on the Bethlehem YWCA annual “Pop-Up Prom Shop.”

The venue was transformed into a one-day boutique where teens could purchase incredible new and gently used gowns. This yearly event provides accessible prom attire at an affordable price. Young ladies, some arriving with friends, others with parents, perused through hundreds of gowns and accessories looking for the perfect dress.

The Pop-up Prom Sale started in 2007, organized by the Bethlehem YWCA. The organization has hosted this as a community event offering beautiful and inexpensive prom dresses (or suits) and accessories for local families. The expense of a gown purchased through traditional retail outlets can be upward of $500 and can easily make going to the prom out of reach. YWCA staff realized that cost/expense should not prohibit someone from going to prom. Volunteers and community members come together each year to make this event possible along with the direction and leadership of the YWCA Bethlehem staff.

YWCA of Bethlehem Executive Director Delia Marrero and Development Director Kathy Cruz oversaw all details that make this event a yearly success. Marrero stated that “the YWCA has hosted this event for 17 years, It was previously at other venues, hence the name Pop-Up Prom Shop” but most recently it has been at Venture X. Venture X, owner Terry Wallace gave the “Pop up Prom Shop” full access to his space for the event, and several members of his staff were also volunteers.

Walgreens store manager Mike Loquasto and Adam Meyer Moving & Storage retrieved the dresses from storage and delivered them to Venture X. Volunteers were present to unload the hundreds of dresses, display racks, mirrors and portable dressing rooms - all aiding in transforming office space into a boutique.

“The gowns are so beautiful and reasonably priced that we had to limit the girls to no more than two dresses each,” Cruz said. Where else can you buy a new (possibly famous designer) gown for $20? Due to the long line of girls’, admission was limited to 20 at a time. Ultimately just over 200 gowns were sold to approximately 127 girls. Suits were also available as an alternative option for the gender creative. An additional 29 students from Bethlehem Area School District and Allentown School District were eligible for a voucher for 1 free dress. Ultimately many a happy girl was able to say “Yes to the Dress.”

The Pop-Up Prom Shop is an annual fundraising event that supports youth empowerment programs and the senior day center in Bethlehem.

YWCA Development Director Kathy Cruz helps move one of the many racks of gowns at the annual Pop-Up Prom Shop event March 9 at Venture X in Bethlehem.
Walgreens employee's volunteer time and energy to help set up the yearly Pop-Up Prom Shop at Venture X in Bethlehem
PRESS PHOTO BY JENN RAGO Volunteers Maria Rivera, Mackinzie Lanscek, Susan Stachowski, Melany Berrios and Jackie Jones assist Kathy Cruz in setting up for the Pop-Up Prom Shop. Girls had hundreds of dresses to choose from.
Count down until the doors open. High School age girls line up at the door to Venture X waiting for their opportunity to choose their prom dress. Volunteers were on hand to help select the perfect dress and its accessories.
YMCA event organizers Executive Director Delia Marrero, Council Person Rachel Leon and volunteer Erika Paucar prepare to give sample products and make up coupons to girls.
Mandy Galdi, a parent of a Liberty HS senior, tries to help her daughter pick out a dress.
Twenty customers at a time are admitted into the Pop Up Prom Shop set up like a real boutique. Shoppers raced to their size rack or favorite color each wanting to say “Yes to the Dress!”
Mia Figueroa (Freedom HS), Ava Metz (Palisades HS) and Karen Figueroa (Mom) carefully make their dress selection.
Briana Figueroa (Freedom HS) and friend Leslie Rodriguez found a couple dresses to try on. Rodriguez is a longtime supporter of this event.