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Library works to make prom affordable



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Charli Osborne, head of teen services at the Oxford Public Library, displays one of about 30 formal dresses available free of charge for local girls who wish to attend Oxford’s prom on May 4. Photo by CJC. (click for larger version)
March 06, 2013 - Prom is probably the most special and memorable event in a high school girl's life.

It's also the most expensive.

"Just buying a prom dress alone can cost $100 or more," said Charli Osborne, head of teen services at the Oxford Public Library (530 Pontiac Rd.). "Then there's all the extra stuff – shoes and accessories – that goes along with it."

Fortunately, the Oxford library has joined forces with Hope Closet to make this magical evening much more affordable, so every young lady who wants to, can feel like a princess before she graduates.

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The library will be hosting a Prom Pretty Lock-in event on Friday, March 15 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Admission is free, but registration is required as space is limited.

"We've done this at least twice before and it was pretty popular," Osborne said. "We try to hold it far enough in advance of prom to make it useful for the girls."

Oxford's prom is set for Saturday, May 4.

Stylists from the Oxford-based Studio 113 Hair Designs will be on hand to give girls the inside scoop on the hottest hair styles, trendiest makeup colors and the latest fashion crazes. All tools and makeup will be supplied as the girls will be taught how to do their own hair and makeup.

"We always try to highlight a local business when we do it," Osborne said.

A representative from Hope Closet will be on hand to explain to the girls how they can get their entire prom ensemble for free through this nonprofit organization.

Hope Closet's mission is to provide young ladies with the dress of their choice, regardless of financial constraint or limitations, so they're able to attend special high school events like prom and homecoming dances.

"The girls don't have to show any sort of financial need to get the dresses," Osborne said. "All they have to do is prove that they're in school and they can make an appointment to come in and try on as many dresses as they need to in order to get one that fits properly."

Hope Closet relies on businesses and the local community to supply apparel, financial donations and volunteer support. The organization accepts gently-used formal dresses and accessories. The dresses must be clean and in good condition.

"We've been collecting prom dresses (for Hope Closet) for a while," Osborne said. "We've been doing it for I'd say five years."

This year, the library's collected about 30 dresses.

"The largest amount we ever took in was 87," Osborne noted.

The library will continue collecting dresses and accessories for Hope Closet until March 15.

"People are really generous. We're very fortunate," Osborne said. "They bring in wraps, purses, shoes, some jewelry – all that stuff that people will use once and then never use again."

"Because we happen to have the dresses here, if any of them fit or the girls want them, they could go home with one of them (after the Prom Pretty Lock-in)," she added.

Osborne noted "there's a special need for larger-sized dresses."

"Not everybody's a little Skinny Minnie," she said. "We want to make sure there are some dresses for our bigger girls as well."

According to Hope Closet, the need for plus-sized dresses (14W and larger) is "especially dire."

Osborne enjoys putting on this event because it gives her an opportunity to help girls enjoy the memorable night that she missed out on as a teenager.

"There was no prom at my high school the year I graduated," she explained. "I didn't get to have that experience. I wanted to do it, but it just wasn't available for me.

"I hate to think there are girls who want to go to prom, but they can't because they can't afford it. There are a lot of girls now who are trying to do it all on their own. They have a job and they're trying to pay for everything themselves because times are tough and money is tight for families."

For more information or to register for the Prom Pretty Lock-in, please visit www.miopl.org or call (248) 628-3034.

To learn more about Hope Closet, please visit www.hopecloset.com or e-mail info@hopecloset.org.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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