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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: When my daughter was in college, she worked part-time as a coach in a nearby high school. One of the girls on the squad confided that she wouldn't be attending her senior prom because she didn't have the money to buy a dress. My daughter immediately offered to lend her one -- with shoes and jewelry to go with the outfit. The kid was thrilled.

Last spring while I was cleaning out closets, I saw that my daughter had accumulated several gowns from wedding parties and school formals that she was never going to wear again. Remembering her experience while she was coaching, we decided together to phone a nearby public high school to see if they knew of any girls who might need a gown for their prom.

A woman in the school's administration office was delighted to hear from us. When we dropped off the items, the broad smile on the face of the school official told us the need was great.

Abby, please remind your female readers that when they clean out their closets, they can donate their gowns to a high school. In doing so, they have the opportunity to give a girl who might not be able to go to the prom a happy memory. -- JUST A MOM IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR JUST A MOM: What a wonderful suggestion. We have all read the story of Cinderella -- but few of us realize that we, too, can fulfill the role of fairy godmother. We may not be able to provide a glass slipper or a handsome prince, but we can help to make a deserving girl's dream come true.

DEAR ABBY: I witnessed a situation in a popular restaurant last week. It left me wanting to share it, in order to protect other innocent children from possible danger.

A little girl got up from a table, where she was sitting with her mother and a sibling, and headed toward the "unisex" restroom, arriving there just ahead of me. She went in, the door closed, and then she came out. I asked her if she was through, and she told me that there was someone inside, but the door had been left unlocked. I stood with her outside the door, and a man walked out. I was shocked. The little girl then went inside, and I waited my turn.

The incident left me with questions: Did the man purposely leave the door unlocked? Did he expose himself to the little girl?

I'm upset with myself for not confronting the man, not informing the mother, not reporting it to the management. I know if someone had walked in on me, I would have gasped or shrieked or something. I was standing there and heard nothing.

The bottom line, Abby, is that parents need to take more responsibility for the welfare of their children. Children shouldn't be SENT to a public restroom -- they should be escorted. -- CONCERNED MOTHER IN MISSION VIEJO, CALIF.

DEAR CONCERNED: I commend you for writing an important letter. Responsible parents accompany children to the restroom -- even if it's a same-sex facility.

DEAR ABBY: I am almost 92 years old, and for many years I've said, "If I had mail-ordered my in-laws, I couldn't have done any better." -- HAPPY MARIE IN PORTLAND, ORE.

DEAR MARIE: With an attitude like yours, I'll bet you had a fairy-tale marriage.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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