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12 Years, 13,000 Prom Dresses Later, Chapter Closes For Operation Glass Slipper

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Of all the stores at Southdale Mall, only one has a shopping experience fit for a princess. About a thousand young Twin Cities ladies are seeing their prom dreams come true.

Operation Glass Slipper outfits high school girls with all the attire necessary for the big day for free, but it appears this fairy tale has reached its final chapter.

"The hustle and bustle of this, the excitement ... it's just palpable," Pam Philipp, director of Operation Glass Slipper, said. "Times are tight so to spend all this money on prom is just, for many families it's unthinkable. And to be able to go to your prom is such a big deal. And if you're outside looking in, I just think that's so sad."

The pop-up shop looks no different than one of the mall's actual stores. It's loaded with hundreds of dresses, shoes of all sizes, jewelry, and hand bags. Most of it is brand new, said Philipp, with bridal shops donating clothes that went unsold in the previous season.

Almost everything -- from the dresses to the shoes to the jewelry -- is brand new. Girls are paired with a Fairy Godmother, who guides them through the tough task of picking the right attire for the big night.

"(My Fairy Godmother) was like helping me with the color of my dress, what looks good on me, and what not. It was amazing," Kanaa Gudeta, a senior at South High School, said.

Volunteer Lynette Fleck was assigned to work with Gudeta and thoroughly enjoys the process of helping the young women along.

"This gives them the opportunity to feel beautiful with what they look like and who they are," Fleck said. "It's important to have them feel beautiful and they do."

Over the past dozen years, Philipp says they've dressed about 13,000 girls, but this year's group of Cinderellas will be the last. Running the show has become too tall a task for her.

"I'm retiring," she said. "But I would still be around to consult."

In the middle of the rush Saturday afternoon, Philipp had to hustle to her shop to pick up more dresses after several sizes ran out. It's just one of her may roles, including cleaning donated dresses and re-beading them.

Her hope is that someone will swoop in and keep the fairy tale story from ending.

"Everybody has a smile on their face and it's something we are really thankful to have and I think it should continue," said Lensa Negassa, senior at South High School.

Anything left on the shelves and racks from this weekend's event will be sold at a discount rate over the next two weekends. On March 22-24 and March 29-31, the remaining items will be for sale at Signal Hills in West St. Paul.


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