Ozone House plays fairy godmother
A group of girls examine a rack of brightly colored prom dresses, laughing and talking. It's a familiar scene during prom season-except that none of these dresses have price tags and they're displayed not in a store, but in a balloon-festooned room at Ozone House on Washtenaw.
Ozone House is a nonprofit that provides temporary housing and other help to adolescents-and, once a year, organizes a "prom exchange." (This year's was being held on April 27 and 28.) Past prom-goers donate the nearly new clothes; sorority members have been particularly generous, says staff member Susan Kirtz. Ozone then gives the dresses to kids who might not have $75 or more to spend on a dress that's worn only once.
At last year's exchange, two Ypsilanti High School students, Shirley and ČKeisha, looked critically at a black sequined strapless gown while surprisingly old-fashioned music-"As Time Goes By," "There's No Business Like Show Business"-played in the background. "The really nice ones are too expensive" at stores, said Shirley, who learned about the prom exchange through an announcement at school. Nearby, a Pioneer High student wearing a blue satin head scarf explained that she'd be going to the prom with a group of girls; because her religion forbids showing cleavage, she planned to cover her breasts with a shawl. Another girl with a head scarf, a Pioneer exchange student from Indonesia, was also looking at gowns. "Mom, what do you think?" she asked her American host mother.
By the time the three-hour shopping spree was over, forty kids left with gowns, shoes, or accessories such as scarves or hats. Twenty-five more attended a second exchange at Ozone's drop-in center in Ypsilanti.
One of the teens shopping last year was obviously pregnant. To help keep prom night safe, Ozone House offers an additional gift: packages of individually wrapped, brightly colored condoms.
[Originally published in May, 2009.]