Amazing Mom: Pam Philipp

Filed under: Amazing Parents, Teens, Resources, Fashion

Pam Philipp is the chief fairy godmother of Operation Glass Slipper. Photo courtesy Pam Philipp

Amazing Mom: Pam Philipp, founder of Operation Glass Slipper, which provides free prom gowns and accessories to low-income high school girls in Minnesota.

Pam's Family: Husband: Mike, married 21 years; Kid: Emily, 20

Pam Lives In: Mendota Heights, Minnesota

Why Pam Is Amazing: Soon after Hurricane Katrina, Pam Philipp heard about a teen who was collecting prom dresses and shipping them out to girls in New Orleans.

"I ran into Emily's room -- who at that time was still 16 -- and I said, 'we could do this,' " Pam says. "She said, 'Yeah, we could do this. We could ship them down,' and I said, no, we could do this locally. There's got to be a need, and that really started it."

Soon after, they recruited secondhand stores and consignment shops to offer donations and the dresses, purses, jewelry and shoes started pouring in. That's when they knew they had something bigger on their hands and Operation Glass Slipper was born.

"We had no warehouse space, so we were stocking hundreds of dresses on top of the ping pong table," Pam says. After some local press, they were able to secure storage space. Now, four years later, the number of girls who benefit from the Philipps' efforts has more than doubled.

"The first year it was about 500 (girls)," Pam says. "Then 750, and then 1,000. Then this year it was a little over 1,100."

To participate, girls sign a referral form, along with a parent and teacher, guidance counselor or religious leader. At the event, each girl is assigned a fairy godmother, who helps her select styles from more than 2,500 dresses. Once it's determined whether alterations are needed -- Operation Glass Slipper takes care of those, too -- girls go on to select accessories and cosmetics.

"It looks like a department store," Pam says of the 5,000-square feet they occupy at the Mall of America during pre-prom season. "We set up boutique areas, and you feel like you're having great experience, and that's what we want you to feel. We want you to know whatever size you are, you are beautiful."

Pam says it's the excitement and gratitude from the girls -- and their mothers -- that keeps her inspired.

"They're very grateful and they're hugging and kissing the fairy godmothers," Pam says about the recipients. "But the mothers, really financially, understand that it's a great relief to know that your daughter is going to prom in style and we probably saved them $400, easily."

Pam says the girls will often send pictures, but it's the parents and teachers that show another level of appreciation.

"We constantly get comments from women who are in their 50s or 60s who say, 'oh, I wish you had been around when I was a teenager, I didn't get to go, we didn't have the money,'" she explains. "It's remained fun and emotionally rewarding."

Pam's Daughter Emily Says: "I really admire her commitment to this and her persistence with making things happen and helping out the girls. It's the small stuff that she'll do. Our house is covered with dresses -- always -- because she will go over the dresses that have been donated, and if some of them need re-beading or need to be washed to get stains out, she'll spend hours doing that. I look at that as really tedious work but she does it because she doesn't want any of the girls to ever be ridiculed at their prom for not having the perfect dress. She's selfless and it's really humbling."

Recognition: People magazine dedicated a two-page spread in its May 25, 2009 issue to Pam and Operation Glass Slipper.

Pam's Guilty Pleasure:

Pam's Best Advice:
"When you do something in life, be passionate about it so that you really look forward to getting up every day. And it doesn't involve a big salary because I don't get anything for this. I just think you have to love what you're doing.

Related: Amazing Mom: Maggie Dammit

Want to see who else made the list? Click here for the rest of AOL's 2010 Amazing Moms!

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