Serena Phillips poses for a photo. Photo by Sam Stroozas.

As Beyonce’s Single Ladies played through a speaker on the second floor of the Woman’s Club of Evanston, dozens of teenagers got ready for prom, one of the biggest nights for high schoolers.

Dreams Delivered kicked off its 15th year on April 10 with hundreds of dresses, shoes and accessories for senior prom, all free of charge to participants.

In conjunction with the Delta Chi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha and volunteers from the Woman’s Club, participants got help from a personal shopper in finding their dresses, shoes and jewelry. Volunteer seamstresses made minor alterations and other experts gave makeup and hair styling advice.

A view of Dreams Delivered. (Photo by Sam Stroozas.)

Sheila Best, co-chair of the event, said Dreams Delivered missed 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. So, with a stockpile of dresses in sizes from 0-30 from previous years, they were more than prepared for 2022.

Initially, the event was only for low-income students at Evanston Township High School. But Best said that the previous rule had the potential to create stigma for those participating, so it is now open to all those in need of a prom dress in the Evanston area.

While Best has been helping with the event since becoming a Woman’s Club member in 2018, she says she never gets tired of watching someone find the perfect dress.

“The look on their face when they walk downstairs, it’s just so beautiful,” she said.

After picking out their shoes and dress, participants made their way down to the accessory tables. Photo by Sam Stroozas.

Serena Phillips and her mother, Shannon Phillips, decided to participate in Dreams Delivered after Serena’s sister did so a few years ago. Serena says she remembers how excited her sister was and since then, has been counting down the days until it was her turn.

“It is a very important event because there are some people who cannot afford prom dresses, and this is a great opportunity because everything is here for you,” she said.

Shannon Phillips said that she lost her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was worried that she would not be able to afford a dress after paying more than $100 for Serena’s prom ticket.

“We scraped money together for the ticket and then Serena told me about the [Woman’s Club] event and I was so excited and now we have everything,” Shannon Phillips said.

Vinita Shahdadpuri told the RoundTable that she feels “humbled and grateful” for the experience she got to share with her daughter Nyssa on Sunday afternoon.

Nyssa is attending Northwestern University in the fall and Vinita Shahdadpuri has been worried about how she would also afford prom’s hefty price tag.

“This really helps us because we are trying to save up as much money as we can for college,” she said. “Hopefully, next year she can give back and help someone else.”

Rachel Hershinow, owner of Stella Boutique on Central Street, was volunteering as a personal shopper on Sunday. She has been a member of the Woman’s Club for almost a decade and works with Dreams Delivered every chance she gets.

Genesis Cabrera finds the dress for her. Photo by Sam Stroozas.

“It is so wonderful to work with all of these young women, it is empowering and it makes them light up and feel special,” Hershinow said. “It is so gratifying to see.”

Joyce Okereke waited as her daughter Jackie tried on myriad dresses, finally landing on a lavender, embellished, floor-length gown.

Joyce Okereke said what she appreciated the most about the event is the organization.

Participants were ushered in with their assigned personal shopper and went through each station with ease, giving them plenty of time to try on multiple dresses and accessories.

Jackie said for her, finding a prom dress is another thing she doesn’t have to worry about as a graduating senior.

“This was better than I expected, there were a lot of dresses and I am really excited. It’s less stuff I have to think about now.”

Dresses in every shape, color and size were available at Dreams Delivered. (Photo by Sam Stroozas.)

Sam Stroozas

Sam Stroozas is a reporter and the social media manager at the Evanston RoundTable. She covers small businesses, social justice and human interest stories. Contact her at sam@evanstonroundtable.com and...

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