Minnesota woman’s prom dress donation program will soon end

Published 8:08 am Wednesday, March 20, 2019

EDINA  — After playing fairy godmother to more than 10,000 girls over the past decade, Pam Philipp is packing away her magic wand.

Since 2007, the founder of Operation Glass Slipper and her legion of volunteers have made prom dreams come true for underprivileged girls by providing them with dresses, shoes and accessories — all free of charge.

But midnight is striking. A “princess event” at Southdale Mall in Edina will be the nonprofit’s last, not because the program has waned in popularity but because Philipp and her core group of nine volunteers are getting on in age or are battling health problems.

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The work, though it seems like it comes together by magic, is hard.

Volunteers collect donated dresses year-round, storing them at a West St. Paul warehouse. They clean, alter and rebead them and then hold dress sales throughout the year to raise money for accessories. They order and sort thousands of shoes, jewelry and purses.

“We work every day at the warehouse and you’re on cement for four to five hours at a time,” Philipp, 68, said to Minnesota Public Radio News.

“(One volunteer) has had hip surgery, shoulder surgery. Another has had shoulder surgery, so it’s very hard for them to be lifting these heavy dresses and hanging them on racks that are taller than us,” she said. “I’m having trouble with my legs. We’re all sort of suffering these physical ailments and so it’s like, it’s just kind of time.”

Philipp dreamed up Operation Glass Slipper after reading a magazine article about a Chicago teenager who collected donated prom dresses for Hurricane Katrina victims. It struck her that there were deserving girls in Minnesota who couldn’t attend their proms because of the cost.