Essex County College is collecting prom dress donations

Photo Courtesy of Wayne Yourstone
Essex County College’s Dennia Rentzis, left, and Leigh Bello-deCastro display a few of the dresses donated last year to Catherine’s Closet.

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Since 2009, Essex County College’s West Essex campus has been a drop-off site for more than 700 new and slightly worn dresses. These dresses, in turn, are given to Catherine’s Closet for distribution to needy local high school students wishing to attend their school prom.

The prom project is “a true labor of love” that draws the college together, said program organizer Dennia Rentzis, coordinator of admissions at the West Essex campus. “It’s hard to believe this is our 12th year of working with Catherine’s Closet,” she said. “I look forward to all the donations we receive and being able to help girls in the community attend prom, which is one of the most special milestones in a young woman’s life.” 

“Programs such as the prom project highlight our college’s proud history of service to the community,” ECC President Anthony Munroe said. 

This year’s goal is 100 dresses. Dresses, brought in on hangers, may be taken to the West Essex campus at 730 Bloomfield Ave. in West Caldwell between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, until Feb. 28. Catherine’s Closet, a nonprofit organization, will distribute the dresses in time for prom season.

Gowns must be clean, age appropriate, current and on hangers. Designer gowns and large sizes are especially needed. Dresses that do not qualify for Catherine’s Closet are donated to local charities.

Over the years, many of the dresses have also been donated by people in the community.

Catherine’s Closet was formed in 2002 in memory of honor student Catherine Johnson, a student at Clifford Scott High School in East Orange who was struck and killed by a stolen vehicle. Over the years, more than 6,000 area girls have benefited from the organization.

Additional information on the college’s drop-off site is available at 973-877-6593. Learn more about Catherine’s Closet at