NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Melanie Allen-Mattegat, owner of Julie Allen Bridals in Newtown, feels that every girl should go to the prom -- regardless of whether or not she can afford a dress.
This is one of the reasons why Allen-Mattegat has donated 220 prom dresses — with a total value of $22,000 — to the Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families (CAFAF) in Rocky Hill.
CAFAF will be holding an Avenue of Dreams event, where it will provide girls from foster and adoptive families -- between ages 13 and 19 -- with free dresses.
“This is a statewide program. Girls from Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, or anywhere in the state, can go to this event as long as they pre-register for it on the CAFAF website ," said Allen-Mattegat, a Newtown resident.
According to Allen-Mattegat, the donated dresses are in a variety of colors, styles and sizes. They are appropriate for girls to wear to either junior or senior proms as well as any other formal party.
The donated dresses were used as samples in the shop. “They were either duplicates that I already had, leftovers from canceled weddings or part of my inventory that was purchased for the store,” she said.
This is the second time that Julie Allen Bridals, located at 154 S. Main St., has donated dresses to the CAFAF. In 2014, the store donated 350 dresses, which was valued at $35,000.
“I plan on doing this as long as I can while I have the dresses to do it with,” she said.
Allen-Mattegat said she has a soft spot when it comes to the foster care system.
“Personally, my family has been involved with someone in the foster care system so we have seen the struggles.
“My younger daughter’s best friend grew up through the foster system,” she said. “She was adopted at the age of 12, after being in the system for four or five years.
“We played an active part in her life since she was 12," she said. “I was like her third mother, I took her everywhere that I brought my family. We did everything with her and she became part of our family. The girls were inseparable growing up.
“Until she was adopted, it was very difficult for her, so that's why donating dresses to CAFAF is something that is close to my heart."
She added that her daughter’s friend now lives in Bridgeport, and is 25.
“We contacted two of our manufacturers, Bari Jay in Manhattan and Bill Levkoff in White Plains, who both donated dresses to the alliance as well," she said.
Julia Allen Bridals is a 46-year-old business that sells wedding gowns, bridesmaids dresses, mother of the bride, flower girl and underpinning.
“We are a second generation, family-owned business,” Allen-Mattegat said. "My mother, Julie, founded the business in April of 1970. I have been the owner since 1990.”
Those who are interested in donating items for the Avenue of Dreams event can call 860-258-3400 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the event, click here .