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From left to right are UW-River Falls students Angela Johnson, Cayla Wencl, Cortney Holum and Lacy Lukaszewicz, who headed up a class project that made gently used formal dresses available to others in need of a prom dress.UW-River Falls News Bureau photo

Class helps prom dress group, other nonprofits

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UW-River Falls Professor David Bonko's nonprofit marketing communications class is learning first-hand how a little idea can turn into a big success.

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The objective of the class is for students to gain hands-on experience by helping nonprofit organizations.

Bonko divided the class into groups and assigned each to choose a nonprofit organization to work with for the duration of the semester.

After an initial meeting with their partnering organization, each group decided goals and objectives on how to help their nonprofit. At the end of the semester each group will give a half-hour presentation on the organization's background, objectives of the project, tactics enacted to meet objectives, project outcomes, and what was learned.

One group in the class is composed of four young women and they are working with the organization Ever After Gowns, a Minnesota-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to supporting Twin Cities-area young women by providing them with new and gently used formal gowns, shoes and accessories to be worn to their high school prom for free of charge.

The group included Angela Johnson, a senior from Chattfield, Minn.; Cayla Wencl, a senior from Dodge Center, Minn.; Cortney Holum, a junior from Andover, Minn.; and Lacy Lukaszewicz, a junior from Medford.

After speaking with Maggie Harris, the director of Ever After Gowns, the group decided to hold a dress drive on campus in hopes of getting a large number of donations for the organization.

"We thought our campus would be the perfect place to collect dresses because of the age group, location and large female population," said Holum. "We really want to inform women on campus that their dresses can be donated to help a good cause. Many gowns are stashed away in closets for years and eventually get donated when they are out of style or worn too many times as Halloween costumes."

In order to reach their goal of 100 dresses, the group held a dress drive in the University Center in March. It collected 82 gowns along with many other items such as shoes, jewelry and even new, unused makeup.

"The dress drive was really successful," said Johnson, "But we had to work extremely hard to get everything together in such a short amount of time. We only had about three weeks to organize it and advertise, but we managed to make it a big hit."

Bonko said he is extremely proud of the group.

"Their outcomes to date have been stellar, and they most certainly have benefited their clients. I'm proud of their work and they should be too. They are living the mission of the course."

To learn more about the organization, contact Maggie Harris, director of Ever After Gowns, at

612-695-2838 or visit www.everaftergowns.org.

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