Editor's Note: Pam Philipp and Operation Glass Slipper are being featured today (Feb. 3) as The Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day. The series features stories of people across the nation who are making a difference in their communities. Congrats Pam!
The Ordway’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's “Cinderella” partnered with Mendota Heights nonprofit Operation Glass Slipper this winter to provide a few more fairy tale moments long after the house lights went up on the holiday production.
Operation Glass Slipper, founded by Mendota Heights resident Pam Philipp, provides dresses, new shoes and accessories so that girls from low-income families can have a memorable prom experience in the spring.
In support of turning “cinder girls” into “princesses” for a night, Ordway patrons were encouraged when they purchased a ticket to donate prom dresses and accessories at the performance.
“Its such a lovely mission that Operation Glass Slipper has,” said Ordway president Patricia Mitchell. “The Ordway was really happy to be a part of helping them achieve it.”
The natural fit between the Cinderella story on stage and the nonprofit also resonated with Ordway’s patrons, said Mitchell.
“They said it was the best response they ever had,” said Philipp.
When Cinderella herself (actress Jessica Fredrickson) helped load up the donations Jan. 11 with Operation Glass Slipper volunteers, they counted almost 200 dresses, 40 pairs of shoes and 50 pieces of jewelry.
In addition to donations from individuals, the nonprofit also receives donations from local bridal and prom shops, as well as corporations.
If that weren’t enough going on, the nonprofit also held their annual sale this month, selling off donated dresses to the public that aren’t suited for prom.
Even though most dresses are priced at $5 as a way to give back to the community, Philipp said the sale this year earned about $6,000. The annual sale provides cash that planners use to buy new shoes and additional materials.
“There are still a lot of middle class people who are struggling on a day-to-day basis ..."
A Growing Wish for 'Fairy Godmothers'
The nonprofit served 550 girls in 2007 when it was founded and continues to grow. Last year, they outfitted 1,100 girls for prom.
Philipp said they started receiving calls much earlier this year, and this spring Philipp expects to serve 1,400 girls over the course of a two-day extravaganza in March at the Mall of America.
It will take about 450 volunteers to orchestrate the event, including “fairy godmothers” who will help each “princess” choose a dress, accessorize and be fitted for their night at the ball.
Philipp runs the organization with the help of her friend Kay Pogulis of Maple Grove.* “I’m the engine with the ideas,” said Philipp. “But she’s the caboose that shoves everything through.”
Pogulis, Operation Glass Slipper’s event coordinator, said they never know how many girls will turn out for the event, and the challenge is to ensure the clients feel special and don’t have to wait in long lines during the experience.
Girls will be referred from throughout the metro and outer Minnesota as well, said Pogulis, and a smaller but growing number will come from school districts that aren't usually associated with economic hardship, such as Edina, Minnetonka and even private schools.
“Every year we have an increase, and the economy just isn’t turning around very quickly. There are still a lot of middle class people who are struggling on a day-to-day basis, so I would assume yes, this year we are going to see an increase of girls.”
From Mitchell’s perspective, the down economy may actually be bolstering a spirit of giving among patrons for the organization the Ordway chooses to support each holiday season.
“I think people are more cognizant of the need to help other people and I think the holiday spirit just reminds them of that,” said Mitchell.
For high school girls across the metro, that spirit of giving from the community will make a dream once impossible, possible.
*This article has been edited to reflect the correct spelling of Pogulis. Patch regrets the error.