Can’t afford a prom dress? Check it out from the library.

Galesburg, IL is a town I consider my second hometown–I went to elementary school there for several years, and my mom has lived there for most of her life. I’m actually from Galva, a little town about 1/2 hour from Galesburg, but I spent a lot of time in Galesburg growing up to visit my mom after we moved back to my dad’s house, and of course every time I go home I spend a lot of time there visiting my mom.

The Galesburg Public Library was my library. The children’s room is where I discovered Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, the Hobbit, Judy Blume, and Garfield (it was the 80s). We were there during the summers practically every day–we would walk there from our apartment on the edge of town (it has to be at least 3 miles, but my big sister, little brother, and I made that walk a lot–I’m not sure how we did it, except that it was the only way to get there, with only one bus route in town and at a time in our lives when we didn’t always have a working car; with a single mom who often worked a lot, if we had a car and she wasn’t going to the library with us, she had the car with her at work).

So it was a nice surprise to see this article in School Library Journal, showcasing how the Galesburg Library has a program to share prom dresses with girls who might not otherwise be able to afford it. My own senior prom dress cost $5 on a yard sale, and was a good two or three years out of date (bubble skirts aged quickly in the late 80s/early 90s!) so this program hits pretty close to home for me. Galesburg and the towns around it have been hit hard economically for decades–this is nothing new; we’ve been dealing with a bad economy since the farm crisis in the 80s. The local foundries in several towns have been gone since the 80s, and the hog market (the main animal product of local farms) has been pretty dry since the late 90s. My dad drove Butler steel beams for construction sites on long-haul for 17 years after we lost our farm in the 80s, and now Butler is gone. My aunt worked at the Maytag plant for over 25 years–as did several friends–and that plant shut down back in 01 or 02.

As you can imagine, there’s a reason I don’t live near home–there are just few jobs to be had, and there haven’t been for years. So it’s always nice to hear good news from home–and it’s even better to see that good news in a national magazine. I’d love to hear job news for my friends still living closer to home, of course–but it’s still great to hear that despite the area’s economic troubles, people are making sure that a milestone experience for many teen girls is a happy one.